by Michelle Welch
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15:13 (KJV)
There is no better place to start a Veterans Day in the United States than by visiting a National Cemetery. Sweetheart and I were privileged to walk the grassy hills of the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery this morning. The magnitude of the gift of freedom is revealed with each word on each gravestone, covering every war back to the Spanish American War. Each of these men and women willingly put their lives in peril to protect us from all that is evil in the world. The depth of their sacrifice is, sadly, something many people don’t even begin to understand. We get up, go about our day, buy our Starbucks, shop at our malls, visit our friends, attend our churches, cheer our sporting events, read our books, carry signs of protest, move freely from city to city, join our clubs, marry, have as many children as we want, and vote. We, as women, can do anything we want, from being a stay at home mom to being a judge on the Supreme Court.
As I looked at the flag, flying above the rows of graves, a rush of emotion flooded through my heart. How often I am ungrateful for all that I am blessed with. How I gripe and complain about perceived problems. How much I take for granted in this amazing country that I am blessed to live in. In many countries around the world, citizens are forced to fight. In our country, brave men and women step up and volunteer to keep freedom as the foundation of our country.
I was especially touched by the individual tokens left at different grave sites. One in particular brought a flood of tears to my eyes. A cup of coffee, two donuts, the sports page, and the crossword section. A shared breakfast between two friends. One living. One dead. Yet the bonds of whatever friendship they shared reached beyond the grave. In my writer’s imagination I vividly can see the friendship that brings this special ceremonial moment each and every year, even after the passing of one of them.
Up on the hill, a man sat in solitary vigil. He was obviously a military man, his demeanor tough, yet tender as he sat with his hand on the gravestone of a friend. A whiskey bottle in his hand, he sipped as he talked to the sky, toasting a friendship broken by war. He sat in the area of gravestones from the most recent of battles. Was it a brother, a friend, a father? My heart ached for his obvious grief. My mind began to flash through the pictures of friends I have lost, people I have known who gave their lives to protect my family.
My friend MSG Kelly Hornbeck was one of the first soldiers killed in Iraq on January 18, 2004. His death rocked our world. He was the first person I knew personally to die in a war zone. Since then, we have attended far too many funerals and laid flowers on far too many graves. Yet he died doing exactly what he wanted to do. Protecting America was his gift to people he would never meet.
On this Veterans Day, remember that Christ Himself said that there was no greater love than what these brave men and women feel for us. They willingly lay their lives on the line every day. Every daily gift you enjoy while living in America is because they keep our country free to receive those gifts. When you raise your hands to God this weekend, please remember to thank Him for letting you live in a country that is protected by our military men and women, who care not who you are, what you believe in, where you live, or what you stand for. There are people all over this world who would do anything to enjoy even a portion of our freedoms. Don’t take freedom for granted. Thank a Veteran.
Copyright © 2012, Michelle Welch, All rights reserved, Breath of Life Women’s Ministries. Bible scripture taken from King James Version.