by Whitney Pitcher
Last weekend, on Armed Forces Day I visited a few of the war memorials and President Lincoln’s tomb at Oak Ridge cemetery here in Springfield. It is amazing the somberness, yet peacefulness, of the site. The memorials were constructed in remembrance of the many Illinoisans who gave their lives for our country in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. These large pieces of marble and concrete have the names of Illinois soldiers who died and included every branch of the military involved in these wars. The World War II memorial had a timeline of the entire war and a giant globe with markers noting every battle location. There were also quotes from various generals and military leaders etched into the marble of this memorial. My favorite is from General Patton and is depicted below:
I do think there is a definite respect we need to pay and a somber mood we need to exhibit on Memorial Day (and everyday) when we remember those who died for our freedoms. Freedom isn’t free, and it has been renewed at a heavy price throughout our nation’s history, but as the General said, we can be thankful that such men and women not only died for the principles of liberty, but they also lived for liberty and gave us the opportunity to do so as well. I see General Patton’s words as a challenge. Do we truly appreciate and live for the liberty that we have here in America? Are we truly thankful for the freedom of speech or religion we do have? While we see these liberties too often impinged upon, are we nevertheless utilizing those liberties to prevent that impingement from perpetuating? One of the beauties of the Constitution is that built-in self-preservation of those freedoms, if we take the opportunity to exercise our freedom of speech, religion, the press, suffrage, etc. Be the people that General Patton mentioned–the people that lived for freedom.
That freedom of religion is, to me the most precious, and one of those exercises of the freedom of religion is the weekly communion that I share with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The church I am a part of has a member of the congregation share a brief message before we break the bread and share the cup in remembrance of Christ’s death for our sins. Usually on the Sunday before Memorial Day, whoever shares the message invokes Memorial Day. Although there is no true comparison between the Son of God coming down from heaven and taking on human form, living a perfect life, and dying for our salvation, there are those parallels in the sacrificial nature of Christ and those soldiers who died. The soldiers died for those precious earthly freedoms we have, but Christ died for an eternal freedom from sin in Him–that we would be forgiven of our sins and given the opportunity to share eternity in heaven with Him. There is great joy as well in the fact that Christ lives. His power came not solely in His perfection that allowed Him to be our sacrifice, but in the power in the resurrection. He lives too! We can be thankful, just as Patton said about the sacrificial soldiers, not only that Christ died, but that He lives. It is His life that gives the truest hope. As it says in I Corinthians 15:19 in the Bible, ” If for only this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men”. However, our hope in Christ is for eternity, and the freedoms we have in Him extend beyond this earthly life. That’s real hope.
I’m a proud “bitter clinger”, but there is nothing “bitter” about that faith in Christ. As Governor Palin has said (paraphrasing), “we cling to God, not because we are bitter, but because He is better”. There is much gratitude we owe to those soldiers who have lived,fought, and died for the principles of freedom, but there is an eternal thankfulness to Christ that He not only live and died for our salvation, but that He also lives today.