“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them. (Revelation 14:13)
Now I understand Memorial Day. Now I comprehend why warriors past and present want to visit grave sites and memorial markers, and even former battlefields. They come not to offer another goodbye—but to say, “Hello, again.” Life moves on after someone close to us dies. Sometimes there is only a brief memorial service in the field before the Hero’s Flight whisks the remains to a place far from where he fell. Sometimes we can later find the stone, or the wall, on which his name is written. Sometimes only in our mind’s eye can we see his memorial marker. Markers are important. There we will meet the memory of our time together. We will say “Hello, again” to the memory of who that person was, and what that person did for us.
We may never have even met the individual while he was alive. We might not know his name now. The stone may only carry the label, “Known but to God.” But since he wore the uniform, we know that we have benefited from his service to his country. We understand what he did. We share a history. We remember. “…their deeds will follow them.” wrote the Apostle John about those who died in saving faith.
Not all who have worn the uniform had that faith. We lament that. But even then, we recognize that it is the Lord who provided our nation with warriors to defend its shores. He is the one who brought those special people into our lives. We worked with them, fought alongside them, and when they received their final salute, they left a hole in our hearts.
Memorial Day is about remembering. We remember the fallen. We remember the past. But most of all, we remember the Lord our God who enabled us to be blessed by others who are no longer with us. My brother’s body lies under a stone in Minnesota. He served his nation, not with a gun, but with a Word. He shares responsibility for developing the WELS ministry to the military of today. I told a dear friend that I planned to visit his grave this summer.
In reply, he wrote: “Say hi to Carl.”
I know what he meant. I appreciate the thought. Time has passed since we two brothers sat together, worked together, and laughed. I look forward to seeing him again—alive again, healthy again. But not yet. For now, I will remember. I will observe Memorial Day along with you and millions more. It is time for us with holes in our hearts to say to the memory of those who are now missing from our lives, “Hello, again.”
I will say hi to Carl.
We pray: Lord of our nation, and guardian of our souls. The memory of those who have faithfully served our country brings us heavy hearts. The reminder of the blessings that you have given to our nation brings us thankful hearts. Jesus told us, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” We know that. As we observe Memorial Day, we also thank our friend, Jesus, for laying down his life for us. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida. Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military