On Memorial Day
Cannon Falls Beacon
One day, I waited for an elevator at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis to open. As I did, a fellow visitor walked up and stood beside me. He was about 20 years of age. Although he did not have crutches, it was clear by his gait that something was terribly wrong with his right leg. From his right ear, an electronic device protruded. I assume that it was designed to allow him to hear. He bore on his body the scars of war.
When the elevator opened, we both entered. I asked him, “Were you in Iraq?” “Yes, sir,” he replied showing me utmost courtesy. My spirit was troubled. Why would he call me sir? I did not deserve his respect; he was the one who sacrificed for me. All I could manage to say was, “Thank you.” He smiled and raised his hand toward me requesting a high-five. I obliged, but I did not feel I deserved such kindness.
Monday is Memorial Day. One group of Veterans will take center stage. They are the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Some left for conflict; others left to maintain peace. Either way, they left but never returned home alive. We need to give thanks for these veterans.
Another group, more numerous than the first, is like the young man I met. They returned home alive, but not whole. Their sacrifice did not take away their lives, but it may have taken away their hearing, sight, or even their ability to walk or reach. Their young children will not have a mommy or a daddy who can pick them up when they reach upward because the wounds of warfare have robbed them of these common tasks. We need to give thanks to these veterans.
The most numerous group is those who served this nation for a time. While they will never be exactly the same, they show no outwardly visible evidences of ever being in service. They return with the ability to effortlessly function as productive citizens. They are able to pick up toddlers and run behind the bikes of their children. Not every soldier went to the battlefield. Not everyone came under attack. Do not be deceived; for they also made a sacrifice.
For the time they were in service, they yielded up their liberties and rights to another. While our constitution recognizes the God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, these all surrendered those rights to maintain the freedom we have. They could not pursue enjoyable hobbies or past-times while they were in uniform. They possessed no individual liberty or autonomy. Officers instructed them where to go and when to go. Their lives were not their own. While few have paid the ultimate sacrifice, each soldier recognized that his life was in the hands of his commanding officer. If the officer instructed him to take a hill that was being pounded with enemy fire, he did not turn to him and say, “But that is dangerous. I might get wounded; I might even die!” Even though he may not have lost his life in that day, he surrendered his life completely. Had he died, it would be because he laid down his life for his country. He chose to obey without regard for the cost. The living veteran may not bear the visible scars, he may not have a grave marker as a memorial, but he nevertheless gave much for our country. We need to give thanks to these veterans.
Pastor Brad Berglund
First Baptist Church
Cannon Falls, MN