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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day

Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil
for Thou art with me
Thy road and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

I never had to enter a military recruiting office.

Actually, I have never even been in one, whether I had to or not. But if I had, I think it would be like walking into the 'valley of the shadow of death'.

When I was in high school and college, there was no registration for the draft. President Ford (a Republican) had dismantled the draft after the end of the Vietnam War. By the time registration for the draft was re-instated by President Carter (a Democrat) I was too old to do it.

I have often wondered what it would be like to be one of those men (or women) who took that step - either of their own free will or by government compunction - to enter the armed forces.

I have often wondered what goes through their minds as they talk with the recruiters about 'seeing the world' and 'vocational training' and 'educational benefits'.

I've often wondered how many of them think, "Some day I'm going to put my life on the line for some obscure, middle-aged, overweight pastor, so that he has the freedom to preach the Gospel or write his books or post to his blog."

I also wonder if I would do the same.

I tell myself I would. I would lay down my life for the Lord any day (or so I tell myself). I would definitely lay down my life for Karen and the kids . . . again, so I think. I have friends and family, Church members and good causes I would go to the death for. Probably.

But I've never actually had to do it.

That's what makes Memorial Day so stunning to me. It's a day to honor men and women who have actually laid down their lives for me. I'm an unknown to them, yet they put on a uniform and enter harm's way - for me. They put their lives on hold for me. They surrender their dreams, their families, their relationships, some for a few years, some for a lifetime, for me. Sadly, too many surrender their lives, also.

A week ago, our Sunday School children placed flags on the graves of veterans in the Peoria Cemetery. As we walked up and down the rows of tombstones it re-occured to me that soldiers have been doing this for a long time. The Civil War soldiers couldn't have known that 150 years from their conflict, Sunday School children would still be worshiping the Lord near their final resting place. The Spanish-American War vets, the 'Doughboys', the veterans of WWII, Korea, and VietNam all stood their ground in a way that I can only wonder about.

So this Memorial Day weekend, as I hang the flag from our front porch, I join a grateful nation, thanking the men and women who have laid down their lives for our country. And I am grateful for those who stand to day, in the valley of the shadow of death. May God protect them until they come home.

Especially, thanks to the men from the Peoria Church family serving today:
Craig Berkhiser (grandson of Marge Johnson)
Mark Hults (son of Shirley Mills, grandson of Gene and Marcille Ranstead)
Christian Ensign (grandson of Jeanette Ensign)
Russell Marschand (son of Debbie Marschand, grandson of Jeanette Ensign)
Steve Shiholt (son of Pauline Shinholt)
Chad Troyer (son of Dale and Carla Troyer, grandson of Clara Bowman)