“They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation”

“They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation”

I’m not worthy to write about Memorial Day.

I haven’t the slightest clue what going into battle means.  I don’t know the first thing about that kind of bravery.  I haven’t known the kind of fear that paralyzes your heart and limbs, or the kind of valor that makes you go forward into madness, darkness, and death anyway.  I don’t know diddly squat about what it feels like, to be hunkered down in a hail of unrelenting gunfire; my gut telling me I’m not going home.  I’ve never cried out to God in anguish and pain, the faces of my loved ones my last thought on earth.

None of us have.

“For love of country, they accepted death” – James A. Garfield

The ones that survived battle and war that do know bravery, valor, honor, determination, and patriotism are reluctant to write or talk about it.  They are our Veterans and active-duty servicemen and women.  Some of these very talented people do speak out, and they do it beautifully, and I am so grateful for those glimpses into a hero’s heart and mind.  But most of them do not want the attention, or the possibilitity that insufficient words could dishonor their brethren.  Nor do they want to be reminded of their own hard battles, the never-ending memories that will be with them always.   That’s another kind of sacrifice.    For another “holiday”.

“Courage is contagious.  When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened” – Billy Graham

I am not worthy, but I OWE the ones who have shown their worth beyond all measure.  We all, as a nation of free men and women, owe the ones that lie in quiet graves, the ones who gave everything, so we could keep on being free to be unworthy.   We owe them so much more than the brief weekend remembrance, the small prayer, or the red poppy jauntily placed in a buttonhole or tied to a car antenna, to be discarded on Tuesday.

My home town World War II Memorial set in our Courthouse Square
My home town World War II Memorial set in our Courthouse Square

We owe our fallen heroes a life well lived.  A life full of all the magnificently simple and complex joys and tribulations on earth they lost when they died.  A walk with a friend down a sunny trail.  A stolen kiss. Hard work and honest commerce with others.  Fishing a forest lake in October.  A bowl of chips and salsa.  A cold beer.  Watching your child swing for the fence.  The first dance at a wedding.  Helping aging parents.  Placing a buck or two into a needy hand.

Our fallen heroes earned all those things that we enjoy and participate in every single day by their sacrifice.  Big things and small things.  They are the freedoms, the opportunities, the pleasures, and the responsibilities they fought and died for…it is up to us to make them our own…and own them with honor, dignity, and appreciation.  They didn’t make it home, but here we are, the lucky citizens who owe them far more than gratitude.

“They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation” – Henry Ward Beecher

They watch over us, our fallen.  They urge us to live meaningful lives with bravery and determination.  With joy.  To appreciate and participate in our country’s abundance with a resolve to preserve our heritage, our freedom, and the precious tenets of our Constitution.

I’m not yet, if ever, going to be worthy of their sacrifice.  But I will try like hell to live like they would have lived had they come home.

Now, I believe I will have a cold beer.

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