Inscribed on a 300 foot long black granite wall in Washington D.C., are the names of 58,267 American men and women who were killed or went missing in action, during the Vietnam War. There are very few dry eyes among the 3 million plus visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. On that wall, I touched the name of a classmate and close friend from Malvern, Arkansas, that paid the ultimate price, as an 18 year-old young man.
The words, “Freedom is not free,” graces the entrance to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, as well. Hopefully, there will be a memorial to the 4,424 who gave their lives in the Iraq War, and the 2,440 American military personnel who have died in Afghanistan—every life just as precious—every sacrifice just as appreciated. Their sacrifice, along with hundreds of thousands of others, through years of war, reminds us that freedom is never free. It is wonderfully free to receive, but carries a great price. America is the land of the free, because it is the home of the brave.
Memorials are good things. When we see them, they trigger memories of love, value, gratefulness and appreciation. It is for this reason there are headstones in cemeteries, statues in parks, memorial plaques and monuments across our land. Every memorial shouts out: “Remember Me! Don’t Forget! Consider Our Cause!”
On Monday, in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day—A day when we pause to remember the men and women who have given their lives in defense of this nation and our way of life. This day should provoke thoughts of thankfulness and appreciation. It is a time to remember the great sacrifice of our fallen soldiers. It reminds us how precious freedom is, and that it needs to be constantly guarded.
However, we are prone to forget the significance of Memorial Day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.” The president was absolutely correct. Unfortunately, it seems many Americans celebrate Memorial Day without a thought about those who died to keep us free.
Robert A. Heinlein put it perfectly when he wrote: “Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”
Memorial Day reminds me of two things. On one hand, it’s about remembering the price of our freedom. It is recalling the cost paid to secure our way of life in liberty. The very most a person can do for his friend is to die for him – a clear demonstration of supreme love. But Memorial Day also reminds me of the greatest cost ever given by any man to bring freedom to others. It is a day to recall the immense price Jesus paid to free us from the death penalty of our sins and to grant soul liberty, salvation and eternal life to all who trust in Him.
Jesus spoke of this great love in John 15:13 when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” This “greater love” was shown—not debated—it was displayed—not discussed. This kind of love becomes visible when one person willingly gives his life for another. It is this quality of love Jesus has for each one of us. He demonstrated His love by giving His life a sacrifice “for his friends” – literally in behalf of his friends, or in the place of his friends.
The Lord’s love for us was immeasurable—His compassion for our condemned condition—incalculable. The Apostle Peter wrote that this love was so great that, “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
As Peter wrote, this sacrifice Jesus made, this death He died for us, was to allow Him to, “bring us to God.” His atoning death was able to please the holy and righteous demands of God because “Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).
My son, Timothy (1997 graduate of Monticello High School), is a Staff Sergeant in the U. S. Marine Corps. He served three deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is currently an Infantry Instructor at SOI West, Camp Pendleton, California. Not long ago, Tim wrote: “This Memorial holiday we pause to remember those loved ones we have lost, who served. Being the greatest country on the planet requires the greatest sacrifice, many times to the detriment of our family and friends. But as Americans, we have always stepped up and taken it on the cheek. That’s why we celebrate Memorial Day—to remember those who served who are no longer with us. So, if you have lost someone who served—from my family to yours—we THANK YOU for their service, and we HONOR their sacrifice. The remembrance of their sacrifice is special because it reflects the greatest kind of love there is…the love of God, #gonebutneverforgotten.”
On this Memorial Day, why not take some time to thank God for those who paid the ultimate cost? Thank the Lord for those who gave their lives for our nation and our personal freedom. Pray for their spouses, parents, children and families. Also, why not rejoice and trust in the One who gave His life for your spiritual freedom? Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). After all, freedom in Christ is the greatest freedom the world has ever seen.