As I have spent much of today reflecting on the meaning of this Memorial Day…the word “thankful” seems so insignificant. My grandfather served. My dad served. Neither died in combat. Thankfully, they died much later in their life…which is one major reason why I am here today.
Although I have a family history of service to this country, I never served in our armed forces. When I was in high school, I was moved by the events of the first Gulf War and I met with an army recruiter multiple times. I even invited them to my house to talk through some details with my parents. I was ready to enlist and serve to fight for the freedoms that we all too often take for granted.
Shortly after that evening the recruiter came to my house, something changed in my heart…It was not my desire to serve and to protect the freedoms this country provides…Neither was it a loss of courage. To be completely honest, I cannot pinpoint exactly what transpired to change my heart and my mind. I had been 100% “all in” on my commitment to enlist. But, for some reason, when it came time to “sign on the dotted line”…I didn’t.
What developed as a result of that was the devotion to serve in a different way…to offer my life, talents, heart, and soul to serve people in a different capacity. (I surely did not, however, expect it to be in this capacity in which I am now serving!)
Daily, I realize and appreciate the fact that I live in a place where others commit their lives to protect me so that I can commit my life to the service of others in other ways.
I cannot be thankful enough!
What kept entering my head today was the end of the movie, “Saving Private Ryan” where Captain John H. Miller says his final words to Private James Ryan…
“James, earn this. Earn it.”
Captain Miller and many other men from his squad lost their lives to find Private Ryan in the effort to send him home safely.
Rarely a day goes by where I am not haunted by those same words. I am so thankful for the sacrifices of those in our US Armed Forces past, current, and future. Because of their sacrifice to win & preserve our freedoms, I am compelled to serve and give all that I have in the life I have been called to live.
“Saving Private Ryan” ends with Private James Ryan, in his old age & with his whole family, at Captain Miller’s gravesite. James Ryan kneels down and says,
“Every day I think about what you said to me on that bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me”
I know there are all sorts of theological concerns with that…and we could debate about them for days. But that is not the point…
I do not take your sacrifice for granted.
I am thankful, every day, for what you have fought for.