Your pride and joy ... lies dead on the hills!
How the mighty heroes have fallen! ...
How the mighty heroes have fallen!
Stripped of their weapons, they lie dead.
(2 Samuel 1:19-27 NLT, King David at the death of Saul & Jonathan)
Roy died at a ripe old age with many memories. His life was full of both good and bad memories, but he chose to remember mostly the good. The bad memories, that stirred his heart and that he shared with friends, involved the big war — World War II. So many things about his war experience he remembered in great and horrifying detail. The emotions he felt so long ago in the mid 1940's were as vivid for him in the late 1990's as they were the day he returned home from the "European Theater."
Roy survived the assault on Normandy — he was part of the second wave that landed. He carried with him the memories of water stained crimson with the blood of fallen soldiers. He experienced fear, sweat, vomit, blood, machine gun fire, grenade concussions, artillery fire, and salt water just to get to the base of the cliffs on the beach. In terror-filled moments that would forever change his life and the history of our world, his life was stripped of innocence as the realities of war engulfed him.
Not too many months later, he found himself cold, hungry, and down to three rounds of ammunition. Close to being completely surrounded and cut off from air supplies because of the weather, Roy and his buddies hung on to what little hope they could muster, enduring what has been mostly called the Battle of the Bulge. Then Christmas morning dawned, the weather cleared long enough for supplies to be dropped and word to spread that Patton and the armored division would soon be there.
Many of the young men who began the assault on Normandy with Roy did not make it home alive. They gave their lives to liberate France and the world of the Nazi evil that held a death grip on Europe. Those who did survive would never be the same. Many of them are the most patriotic folks you would ever meet, but the vast majority of them hated war. They had experienced it. They knew its ultimate realities — things get blown up while people are killed, brutalized, and robbed of the people they love.
In a day when a handful of folks fight for the title "Ultimate Survivor" in what TV deems harsh conditions, we need to remember the cold realities of the cost of freedom. First, many didn't survive the war and left behind families and friends whose lives were never the same. Second, those who did survive have carried with them through life, memories both great and awful and mercies both tender and severe. Third, forty days of hardship can't compare to the horrors of those who endure war.
It is Memorial Day in the United States today. We all pray for an end for the world's need for young men and young women to be placed in harm's way. We also need to remember those who paid the huge costs of our world's conflicts — costs not calculated in dollars, but in lost lives, broken psyches, forgotten innocence, grief-engulfed families, and haunted memories. And as we remember to honor those who paid this awful price, we also remember in hopes to see an end to war itself.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9 NRS, Jesus to his followers)"Come, behold the works of the Lord ... He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire."
(Psalm 46:8-9 NRS)