Memorial Day, a national day set aside to remember veterans who have served our country during peacetime and war. Some have returned home, others lost their lives in battle. So on this day, we thank them for their service, their sacrifice. Flags are hung from porches, visits to memorial sites are plentiful. Yet amidst this remembering and thanking, something is missing.
Pastor Chris exposed this truth yesterday in his sermon. We have become a nation feeling righteous about thanking young men in uniform when we see them in the airport, at a restaurant. We post on Facebook statements about honoring our soldiers. After decades of war, many of our children have never known our country at peace. But do they even know we are fighting? What sacrifices are we making here at home?
In earlier wars, it was necessary for those at home to conserve, to budget, to ration, in order to support the military. It was clear to everyone the battles that were waging. Sugar, petroleum, butter, meat all were divided up by ration cards. People on this side of the war felt the sacrifice as well, pulled together to share resources, united to share news.
We have sent young men into two wars yet given up nothing here. We thank them for fighting for our freedom but we fail to recognize how we squander that very gift. We have the freedom to choose to unite yet be have become divisive, angry, hateful. What a place to come home to. Pastor Chris reminded us that soldiers most often mention a nostalgia for their units, the brotherhood that comes from depending on the guys around you. Guys of every color, every state represented, educations and financial resources varying. They pulled together under a common cause. Then they return to a broken country, one unable to unite or see the brotherhood in anyone who doesn’t look just like them.
Rather than thanking them, I wonder if we shouldn’t be apologizing, for bringing them back to a country fighting over such petty issues as bathrooms. These men and women dug holes in the ground when they had to defecate. We are a country at war, here at home, with our better selves. We have lost our way, our kindness, our integrity. We feel no shame in hurling insults at someone who worships differently than us. Is it any wonder so many come back and are lost, unable to find meaning in the battles they have fought, the friends they have lost?
On this Memorial Day, consider thanking a soldier for his or her sacrifice and pledge to them you will do better also. You will give up your right to help divide this country, you will sacrifice you need to find see your religion as the only one, you will ration your anger. I am certainly going to work on this Imagine a world where returning soldiers who are thanked for their sacrifice thank you for yours as well. That is a nation worth fighting for.