Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

(This piece was originally written for The Dialogue, the weekly newsletter of the church where I serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, MO.)

There’s nothing wrong with grilling out or heading to the lake on Memorial Day Weekend, but come Monday we are asked as a society to honor those who have died and been wounded in service to our country.  I confess that I didn’t do much memorializing yesterday; I spent it trying to get over a miserable head cold.  If you—like me—missed your opportunity to honor those who have served (hopefully you were having more fun), maybe these thoughts will help offer some perspective.
I heard the great documentarian Ken Burns’ interviewed yesterday and it turns out his next work is on Vietnam.  He mentioned that he was of age to be drafted but drew a high draft number and did not have to go.  I thought once again about the differences between generations, and how I, having grown up barely remembering Vietnam, never had to know the fear of being drafted.  Although I cannot know for sure, I feel that the war in Iraq and the length of the war in Afghanistan would have faced more opposition had a greater percentage of our nation borne the pain of war.  If most Americans were truly worried about having a son or daughter killed or about a child having his or her limbs blown off, would we really be so blasé about war and its effects?  As it is, a minority of our citizens knows this pain and makes such sacrifices, so we spend billions to continue these wars and think nothing about preventing future ones.
A few days ago, I received the following forwarded e-mail from a member of my church in New York who asked me to share it with my church here and pray for the family mentioned.  The wounded young soldier described is the brother of one of her students.  The e-mail is written by soldier’s mother.

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday we received word that our son Liam had been seriously wounded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Liam has sustained numerous injuries to his upper and lower extremities: his left leg has been amputated above the knee & his right leg is broken in two places. Surgery has been done on both his arms and we are told he may lose his right arm. Liam has a collapsed lung and is not breathing on his own. Liam is stable enough to be transported & will be arriving at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland this evening. We were able to speak with a nurse who is at Liam's side and she tells us that he is "a fighter"...As we get ready for this upcoming Memorial Day Holiday, I am asking all of you dear friends to keep Liam and our family in your thoughts and prayers as we wait for the unexpected. Please also pray for all those men and women who everyday are putting their lives at risk and pray for their safe return! Thank you with love, Marci

            It does not need to be Memorial Day for us to remember Liam and his family in prayer as he seeks to recover from his wounds.  May we remember in prayer him and all those who suffer from similar wounds, along with their families.  May we remember in prayer the families grieving loved ones who have died in these wars.  May we remember those who are serving in harm’s way.  That seems like the least we can do as Americans.  But as we pray for them, I believe the very least we can do as Christians is to not only pray for our soldiers and their families but also for our nation’s enemies and their families.  Jesus, after all, taught us to do so.  Perhaps if we begin with prayer for our soldiers as well as for our enemies, then we will not be content to allow the few to bear the sacrifices for the many nor for alternatives to war to be left untried.
            Grace and Peace,

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