From the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775 to present day, over 1.3 million Americans have paid for our freedom with their lives.
As we remember and reflect on their sacrifices today, my heart turns to the millions of families who have borne the burden of that loss.
After all, they are the ones left behind to navigate the remainder of their days without their father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother or sister. They are the ones who feel the sting of that sacrifice on more than just one Monday in May.
During WWII, nearly 12% of the American population was serving in The Armed Forces. As such, most citizens were related to or personally knew someone in uniform.
Today less than 1% of our population has taken that oath to protect the other 99%.
I fear this has created a culture of disconnected ignorance. Wars today require zero sacrifice from the civilian population, and therefore zero understanding. Zero understanding leads to zero awareness. Zero awareness leads to zero gratitude. And zero gratitude is a dangerous threat to those very freedoms so many have died to defend.
At the close of a military funeral, the flag that drapes the coffin is removed, folded and presented to the next-of-kin. As the white-gloved military official hands over the flag, they say “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard ), and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
But are we truly a grateful nation? Are we aware of why we’ve been afforded the luxury of a long weekend? Are we teaching these things to our kids, so that they will know their carefree childhoods have a cost?
Let us not forget the ones who have died so that we may live free in this great nation. Let us remember the broken hearts of the families they leave behind.
They are six words I hope never to hear. But should God ever call us to walk that path, I’d want to know that it is not in vain.
Let us seek to understand their sacrifices so that, when the next family is handed a folded flag, it is sincerely “on behalf of a grateful nation.”
* Special thanks to the grounds keeping staff at the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veteran’s Cemetery for allowing the kids and I to assist them in placing Memorial Day flags this year.