Memorial Day is our opportunity to honor those individuals who gave their life in the service of our country. It is a day to celebrate the freedom which has been paid for with blood. It is the day to remember that God alone leads this Nation and will continue to lead this Nation as we remember Him…or in the words of George Washington, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Today is my tribute to those who have “slipped the surly bonds of earth” and are now “dancing the skies on laughter-silvered wings” (High Flight).
As we celebrate this weekend, it is worth remembering the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
Another speech worthy of our study is Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech given 23 March 1775. Somedays I worry that the passion, dedication, and patriotism demonstrated by Patrick Henry has gone from our country…then I visit one of our Military cemeteries and I see Patrick Henry’s commitment etched in stone on marker after marker.
At my 20th class reunion, they shared a video tribute to the thirteen classmates I went to school with. Today, I want to share my thoughts regarding these men who sacrificed all so I could raise my children in a free country.
One of these men I knew very well…David Weber. I’ll never forget the day he died…28 January 1994. Dave loved to fly and was sitting back seat of a tow plane when the pilot suffered a massive heart attack and sent the plane into a nose dive. Dave tried to recover the aircraft, but was not successful. I went to his funeral in Star Valley, Wyoming–met his brother who was serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Eric Das. He was shot down over Iraq on 3 August 2003 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with his Weapons Officer, William Watkins (they were the 27th and 28th casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom to be buried in Arlington).
Ed Wooten. He never knew the impact he had on my life. Our interaction was but a few short weeks, but those few weeks changed the course of my life and solidified my commitment to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jonathan Scheer and I spent 6 weeks together in Basic Training and then a year together in our first Squadron, the Phantoms of 24. He died on 25 Feb 2004 when his A-10 crashed while on a training mission in Alaska.
I didn’t know Frank Bryant while we were at school, but his death was particularly poignant for me. He died 27 April 2011 at the hands of an Afghan in the middle of staff meeting at Kabul International Airport. Like Frank, I sat in many staff meetings in Afghanistan in that same area during my deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. I walked an through several Afghan National Army bases and was concerned at times for my safety. Perhaps I should have been even more concerned than I was.
Let us never forget the men who died to keep us free.
Furthermore, let us ever live with honor, courage, and love in their memory.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13