Remembering Bravery

By Rep. Mike Sanders

I’ve been thinking about Memorial Day for weeks now. It’s one of those days that grab at my heart every year as I think about the sacrifice of lives laid down for our freedom and our nation’s continued liberty.

I think about those who died prematurely. Some were men and women younger than me, just a little older than my two sons. They no doubt had dreams and visions of their future – spouses, children, careers, cars and the comfort of home, a host of other things that we enjoy daily.

I think about the flags that will wave in the air and decorate graves at the cemeteries where we will gather to pay respects. The red of the flag symbolizing hardiness and valor; the white: purity and innocence; the blue: vigilance, perseverance and justice. So many brave men and women have fought under this banner and for the Republic for which it stands. It is fitting to wave it on this day.

I think about the veterans who will gather to pay tribute to their fallen comrades, who will march in parades so that people will not forget that freedom and liberty do not come without great cost. To them I express deep gratitude for their bravery and their service.

If we’re not careful as a society, we will get comfortable and take our freedoms for granted. We’ll sign up men and women to serve for us. We’ll send them off to foreign lands and think of them only on those few days a year designated as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Pearl Harbor Day or D-Day. We’ll turn these days into days of leisure and barbecues and pool parties. Yet we must never do this. We must not become complacent. We must express our gratitude and our prayers continually – daily.

In my thoughts on this matter, I turned to a source that is often of great comfort and guidance – the Bible – wondering what it might have to say about memorials. In Exodus 28:12, Aaron, the high priest was to wear memorial stones on his shoulders that had the names of the tribes of Israel inscribed on them. Later in that chapter, verse 29, Aaron is told to wear the names over his heart on his breastplate when he entered the Holy Place “as a continuing memorial before the Lord.”

I started thinking about this – having the priest bear the names of those for whom he was praying as a memorial on his shoulders and over his heart as he went about his daily duties – so fitting.

We talk about having the weight of the world on our shoulders or shouldering a burden. It makes sense then that we would carry the remembrance of those who have died in our place on our shoulders. We don’t just carry their memory, however; we take up the burden they laid down at death: defending our liberty, keeping our fellow citizens and ourselves safe from threats both foreign and domestic.

Next, we carry the memory of these loved ones over our hearts, the place where we feel the most empathy, the most love, the most pain. It is not enough to think about sacrifice – an intellectual exercise – we must be reminded to feel it so that it changes us and daily drives us to live better lives, to live with more purpose.

It is this I choose this Memorial Day – to shoulder the burdens of lives paid in sacrifice to freedom and to bear in my heart the memories of those who died. I’m eternally grateful.

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