Memorial Day Heroes

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day – a day when people gathered to decorate the graves of loved ones who had given their lives in service to their country. I have to admit; as a child I didn’t quite understand why people would want to decorate graves. Now, of course, as an adult, I can’t think of enough things we could do to honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our great nation. Placing wreaths, flowers or flags on graves and speaking words in tribute of those who served and died to protect our liberty and freedom seems so small a gesture. 

I heard a compelling message in which the speaker suggested the next time we find ourselves at a cemetery, we take a long look at headstones and record the limited information we find: a name, the dates of birth and death, sometimes a brief description such as loving mother, brother, sister, son, so on. All of life boiled down to such few words. In fact, the speaker said the most important thing on the tombstone is the dash – the little mark between the day of birth and the day of death. That little dash represents all of life. The message concluded with something like, “Life goes by so quickly. How will you live your dash?”

So let’s talk for a moment about the men and women we will honor on Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, if you prefer. I hope we will all consider the way these people lived their dashes – that too short a period of time between the days of their births and the days of their deaths.

They lived with courage. Perhaps they were afraid to fight in battle, but they did it anyway because they knew the cause was important, and they knew the fate of a nation depended on them. They lived selflessly. They willingly sacrificed their lives so their children and fellow countrymen could live in safety, security and freedom. They lived all in – they didn’t wait for someone else to do what they felt called to do. They didn’t wait for better timing or until circumstances were just right. They didn’t wait until their finances were in order or until it was a more convenient time. They did what was asked of them even though it cost them their lives.

For most of us, we wish for life to go on until we are as the Old Testament describes, old and full of years. But many of the people we will remember on Memorial Day died in the very prime of their lives. Many never got the opportunity to raise a family, see their children graduate high school or college, see their grandchildren grow up, serve in a career other than the military or any of the myriad things the rest of us too often take for granted. Our heroes lived lives that for us seem too short.

Yet, even though the loved ones of these military members miss them to this day, we can gather on Memorial Day with smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts. Because, we know that while earthly life is over for these men and women, eternal life is never over. In fact, life has become something dearer for them than any of us on this earth can even imagine. They have been welcomed into the arms of their savior with the words, “Well Done, thy good and faithful servant.”

They lived their dashes to the fullest. And for that, the rest of us are forever grateful. As we decorate their graves, let us pledge to always remember their sacrifice and to live purposefully and with gratitude.

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