Monday, May 30, 2011

Gratitude and Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day and our family will be doing a lot of the same activities as other families across the country. We will be remembering my grandfather, who was a decorated Korean War hero, and we will be remembering all the men and women of the military who have given the ultimate sacrifice—the military heroes of the world.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Each died for a cause he considered more than his own life. Well, they didn’t volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.”

So, in my mind, Memorial Day is really all about gratitude. To be thankful for sacrifice, not only of the soldiers who gave everything, but also to their families who hoped and prayed, and endured. Of course there are still many families today, in this time of uncertainty, who have loved ones far away, serving in foreign lands, to defend our freedoms today. One of my friends is the mother of a Marine and she once wrote an incredibly inspiring letter and I’d like to share part of it with you.

“First, may I just say that I don't fear my son being killed in Iraq. At least I don't fear it any more than I do the death of any of my children anywhere. What I fear is that the horrific experience, the truly awful things he must see and do and experience almost every day, will cripple him physically, emotionally, or spiritually. When I ask for prayers for him at certain times it's that he'll be able to endure whatever he must and emerge from it the same man we sent over. That or a stronger, better version of himself. The Church produced a DVD for military families that is the greatest comfort and strength in the world to me. (I watch it almost weekly) In it, General Authorities point out that Helaman was a warrior. Moroni was a warrior. Mormon was a warrior. War, in any generation, is hell on earth but righteous men remain righteous and return triumphant (but greatly humbled) because God and His angels are always there and always available, even when the soldiers and Marines are too tired and too stressed to watch out for themselves. But the scriptures tell us that we must ASK for that heavenly protection in order to receive it, and that is why I turn to you. Those are the prayers I seek and I thank you for from the bottom of my heart.”

To me, that is what Memorial Day is truly about—the families, the soldiers, the people who believe in a cause higher than themselves and are willing to put action to words no matter the cost. And then, even in offering such a great sacrifice, all they ask of us is a humble plea for a prayer for heavenly protection as they, or their children, carry out the missions that are asked of them. Because of this, on Memorial Day, my heart is full and my feelings of reverence and gratitude are front and center.

When we gather as a family today, I want to instill in my children the remembrance for those who have served and to remind our family to pray for those serving and for their families who are anxiously waiting at home for their return. To have gratitude ever in our hearts for what is ours in this land of the free.

Ronald Reagan said in that same speech quoted above, “As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation.”

And with gratitude in my heart, that is my wish today as well.


Debra Erfert said...

This was truly a moving post. I'd never thought about our military in quite this way. We watched Pearl Harbor last night and I had to shield my eyes from the horrendous pain the men and women suffered through during the attack. I know what I saw on screen wasn't real, they were actors, but for those caught in war today the experiences are painfully real. I will pray for them and be grateful for their willingness to serve.

Ronald Reagan was my favorite president. I could hear his voice as I read his quotes.

Jennie said...

Great post!

L.T. Elliot said...

This is so beautiful, Julie. I'm so grateful you shared that letter from your friend. I'll definitely pray in a new way for our servicemen and women. God bless.