Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day and Families

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  Many of us think of it as one of the few three day week-ends when we can have some down time, maybe take a road trip.  For others, it may be a time to hit the stores to take advantage of sales.  It is also widely viewed as the official start to summer. 

But Memorial Day is actually a much more solemn occasion.  As busy Americans we often lose sight of that fact.  Beginning with the end of the Civil War, Memorial Day is the time set aside to remember and honor those who died serving their country in the military. 

To those who have lost loved-ones who served in the military, I extend my heart-felt condolences and sympathy.  The loss of someone we love is one of the most difficult of human experiences.

I don’t have any amazing insights or observations about Memorial Day.  I simply wanted to share two reports I heard on the radio while I was making my family breakfast this morning.  They continue a theme from the prior posts, i.e., the separation of families.  The first involves a soldier and his grandfather.  The second involves children whose father is currently deployed.

For more than a decade our country has been engaged in wars of questionable justification.  I come from a family where many have made great sacrifices to serve their country in the military.  My hometown in Texas is a city where for a long time the major industry has been the military.  I’m not from Berkley and I don’t eat tofu with much regularity.  But you don’t have to be a flower child to question our nation’s use of its military in recent years. 

Many have written eloquently about the dire foreign policy and humanitarian repercussions of our invasion of Iraq and our long presence in Afghanistan.  Those ideas do resonate with me.  As a Christian, I am concerned about all of God’s children, not just the ones who look like me or who bear the same passport.

But as we observe Memorial Day tomorrow, I would encourage us to think about these wars in a somewhat different context.  I would ask that we consider the impact on American families when we decide to send our military for dangerous and prolonged periods to other nations’ territory.   

What happens to a family when parents aren’t there when children take their first steps or begin school? 

What happens to their relationships when parents and children are physically separated for a year or more at a time? 

What does it do to kids who see mom or dad broken-hearted and in tears when they look at a picture of their partner or when mom or dad gets off the phone with him or her? 

What does it do to children who fear that their parents may hit an IED at any moment? 

Are these sacrifices of our families worth whatever the benefit is that we’re supposed to be reaping from these military engagements?  With an all-volunteer military, few of us think about the plight of military families who have borne the brunt of these sacrifices.

Job 5:11
The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.

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