On this Memorial Day, I remember you.
That seems strange, because I struggle to recall your name and have never known your face.
But because my father remembers you, I am thinking of you this day.
You fought with him in France more than 70 years ago. You became his friend. And, while my father returned home from the war, you were killed in action.
Would it surprise you to know that my father, now seven decades removed from your death, still thinks of you?
Even more, he honors you.
And he does so not only on this day set aside by our nation for you and others who gave their life in service to our country, but on so many other days, ordinary days, as well.
He remembers how you were still teenagers when you met. You were both so young, and had so much life ahead of you. You forged a friendship in the midst of a horrible conflict.
Now 90 years old, my father remembers not only the long life he has lived, but also the life you were denied. And thinking about your death, and what it meant then and means now, sharpens his resolve to live a life worthy of your sacrifice.
Your death in war inspired my father to a life of peace.
I marvel at that.
And I struggle to understand how the memory of your death, as well as the untold horrors he surely witnessed in war, did not close his heart or turn him bitter.
And that’s why he’s my hero.
Not because he went to war, but because his time in combat, and your death in particular, committed him to the way of peace.
The Book of Common Worship includes a prayer “for those in military service” that I regular pray for those who are part of the military today, especially for those I love:
Righteous God, you rule the nations.
Guard brave men and women
who risk themselves in battle for their country.
Give them compassion for their enemies.
Keep our sons and daughters from hate that hardens.
Though they must be at war,
let them live for peace.
Encourage them as they encourage each other,
and never let hard duty
separate them from loyalty to your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank God that I have seen this prayer answered in my father’s life.
But I also thank you. I am grateful for the friendship and love you offered my father during the worst days of his life.
He still remembers you.
And so on this day when we honor the sacrifice of your death, we will also honor the beauty of your life.