How should we honor the fallen?

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It is an important holiday, and I want to make sure we honor the fallen properly. This holiday has become confusing for many Americans. Nowadays, some treat Memorial in the same manner as Veteran’s Day. They are two distinct holidays with different purposes. Memorial Day is the day we honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for our great country. Veteran’s Day, on the other hand, is the day we honor those who have served in our military. Given that Memorial Day is when we are supposed to honor the fallen, the natural questions is how should we do that. Three ideas come to mind.

Remember their heroic deeds

All Americans should pause this weekend and think about those who died for our freedom. There are several ways to do this – read a book about military history, visit a military monument, or watch a military history movie. Over the years I have done all three of these activities many times. My favorite book about military history is Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. The movie about this unbelievable US Army Ranger raid is also great. My favorite military monument is at the top of Pointe Du Hoc where the US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs on D-Day. My favorite military history movie is a tie between The Longest Day or A Bridge Too Far. Both are great and based on books written by Cornelius Ryan.

Ghost Soldiers tells the epic tale of US Army Rangers rescuing POWs during WWII.
Ghost Soldiers tells the epic tale of US Army Rangers rescuing POWs during WWII.

Witness where they fell

Visit the battlefields where they fought. The best way to get a sense of what our fallen experienced is to visit where they fought. Walk the battlefield, learn their stories, and ponder what happened. This summer, you will get the opportunity to see some of the most historic battlefields and cemeteries in the world when we go to Normandy. We will see firsthand what our troops faced on D-Day, visit several museums, and pay our respects at the cemetery. I believe it will be an eye-opening experience for both of you. I am looking forward to showing you this important piece of our history.

Grave for a fallen US solider. Thousands are buried in Normandy France.
Grave for a fallen US solider. Thousands are buried in Normandy France.

Honor their sacrifice

This one can be challenging, so I would be plain. In my opinion, the best way to honor the sacrifice of the fallen is to live a life worth living. Make the most of what you have been given. As an American, you have more opportunity than most people in this world. Our freedom was paid for by others. Don’t squander their sacrifice. Get out there and make something of yourself.

In the movie Saving Private Ryan (another great war movie), there is a powerful scene at the end. Tom Hanks character Captain John Miller is severely wounded. He tells Private Ryan played by Matt Damon to “earn this”, and then he dies. The message is the same as what I am saying here. In the next scene, Private Ryan is in the cemetery at Normandy, and remembers those words, and thinks about his life. Watch the clip below. It actually makes me cry every time I watch it.

Remember the fallen on Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. It is the day that we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the US military. Many of them were not much older than you are right now when they died. Like you – they had plans for the future, and dreams about what they wanted to do in their lifetime. But, those plans did not happen, their dreams were not fulfilled. Instead they departed this world too soon, and left an empty chair at the table. It is important that we remember the fallen. They paid for our freedom with their lives. You come from a military family so it is important that you understand what this holiday means. Take a few moments today to ponder their sacrifice, thank God that you live in a free country, and remember the fallen.

John 15:13.┬áThere is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.