[This tribute is adapted from a Memorial Day message from Pastor Throckmorton.]
Salute – v – a: to address with expressions of kind wishes, courtesy, or honor; b: to give a sign of respect, courtesy, or goodwill to; to honor.
They were ordinary men and women with everything they held dear to lose, who, for simply the love of God and what is honorable, said,
“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Not the most quoted line of the Declaration of Independence is it? The authors not only wrote those words, they lived them. So did those who voluntarily followed in their footsteps and gave, on the battlefield, what Abraham Lincoln called “their last full measure of devotion,” for what we enjoy and cling to today: freedom. This freedom is longed for by citizens of the world who taste its benefits from afar.
Let me encourage you on this 70th Anniversary of D-Day, and throughout this summer as you plan the picnics, celebrate with graduates, and enjoy this precious freedom, to take time to remember, give thanks, and display respect.
I recently found a quote from actor Jimmy Smits, who at the 2007 National Memorial Day concert shared this fitting reminder:
“All of us who have lost loved ones know the searing pain of grief. We know how difficult it is, even impossible, to let go. Grief is our wound, the hole inside us left by each precious life that has been taken from us, an emptiness that indeed can never be filled by anyone else. We go on with our lives; we must. But tonight as we remember those who have died for our country, let us be reminded that grief is a sacred wound. So let us respect our own grieving; for it is, after all, an expression of our love. And it is an honoring of those who died for us. Let us be assured that the feeling we call grief — its shock and sadness, its anger and confusion, and most of all its loneliness — is our way of saying, ‘We love you.’ Abraham Lincoln spoke from his heart on the back of an envelope on November 19, 1863: ‘The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people and by the people shall not perish from the earth.”
As we remember lives given for freedom, let us not forget the greatest sacrifice of all. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” And oh how he loved his friends! He did lay down his life for them and each of us. The deserving and the undeserving, the caring and the uncaring, the good, the bad and the ugly of heart were on his mind as he died on the cross. And the battle he fought was not just to give us physical freedom that would only last to the end of our brief existence, but eternal freedom from the struggle and the bondage of sin’s grip. So as we remember those who died for our freedom let us never forget the one who gave his life for the liberation of our soul.
It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, “What will you give me if I release you?” “The half of my wealth,” was his reply. “And if I release your children?” “Everything I possess.” “And if I release your wife?” “Your Majesty, I will give myself.” Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, “Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!” With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you— the one who was willing to give himself for me.”
We are abundantly blessed with the courageous examples of bravery and valor from untold numbers of the men and women of our military heritage. We celebrate and salute each of them, and as we do, may we pass along that heartfelt appreciation to another generation that desperately needs to hear the stories of their heroism. To those who have laid upon the altar of freedom the greatest sacrifice, we salute you.
Tim Throckmorton is the Pastor of Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio. In 2010 he released a DVD project entitled Lest We Forget, followed by a companion book in 2011. His latest book, Jesus Hit Me, was released in the fall of 2013.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
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