This month I’m doing the opposite of what we usually do. Normally if there’s a big holiday coming up we talk about it before it happens to prepare for it, or on that day so we can be timely and relevant. This month I’m neither timely or relevant because I’m going to talk about the Memorial Day holiday that we just celebrated.
Come to think of it being late is relevant for Parker, since we are rarely on time around here anyway. I remember when I first moved out here I was told about “Parker Time.” Parker Time, I was informed, is about 15 minutes behind everyone else’s time.
It didn’t take me long to discover just how true that is. I caught on to it and even though I’m the type of person who hates being late, I relaxed about everyone else. For years now I’ve told people who apologize for being late to church or whatever the same thing. “No one is ever late around here, you’re just less early!”
Hence my “less early” thoughts on Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is both historical and personal to me. Being the son of a World War Two veteran of course it’s personal. Being a member of the Marine Raider Association (due to my father of course) and its Chaplain etc. also makes it very personal to me.
We don’t have very many World War Two Raiders left. According to statistics released by the Veteran’s Administration, our World War II vets are dying at a rate of approximately 492 a day. This means there are approximately only 855,070 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II.
In the last few years I’ve lost a lot of Raider friends, and most of the men who knew my Dad well or served with him have passed away. Thankfully the Marine Corps have brought the Raiders back by reflagging the three MARSOC (Marine Special Operation Command) battalions as Raiders. So even though the original Raiders will soon be gone their legacy will be upheld and expanded by new generations.
If that’s not enough, since I’ve been hosting the Ultimate Sacrifice on KLPZ 1380am on Wednesday mornings recently, I think about veterans and their sacrifices more than ever.
Did you know that this year on the same day we celebrated Memorial Day here in the United States the UK and Germany also marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland? Never heard of it? Jutland was the largest naval battle of World War One and the largest battle between battleships in history.
The German navy lost 11 ships at Jutland, including a battleship and a battle cruiser, and suffered 3,058 casualties; the British sustained heavier losses, with 14 ships sunk, including three battle cruisers, and 6,784 casualties. But since the German navy retired and never really challenged the Royal Navy again it’s considered a British victory.
It’s a century old now and how many people even know it happened? Like everything, the memory of past sacrifices slips away as that generation dies. We are watching the same thing happening now regarding World War Two. As that generation dies the memory of it tends to slip away as well.
This is inevitable unless we actively do something to stop it. Like the law of gravity, it always works unless you constantly push against it. Our memories slip with the passing of time, and unless we record history we will lose it. Of course recording it doesn’t mean anyone will actually pay attention to it, but at least it’s there for those who choose to honor the sacrifice of our veterans by learning about what they did.
My father died in 2008, an unbelievable eight years ago. Even while I can’t really believe he’s been gone so long, my memories of who he was and what he did do not fade. And having his webpage with his history of the Raiders online (usmcraiders.com) keeps the memory alive also.
To me, Memorial Day is largely personal because it focuses my mind even more than usual on Dad. There’s isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and my Mom of course. But on Memorial Day I try and spent a little time meditating on what he did in the two wars he fought in for this country.
He wasn’t a famous historical figure, of course. He was just one of millions who served, did what they could as well as they could, and then when it was all over went back to their private lives. Dad was in many ways a typical veteran of his wars. Yet when you add them together, these men and women changed the world. They liberated millions, and when you count all their descendants that number swells to hundreds of millions at the very least.
Memorial Day is both personal and historical. It’s about remembering those who died to both make the world better and to give that better to us as their final and lasting gift.
I don’t believe I’m worthy of such a gift, but I am so grateful for it. May we all strive to live lives that will make the most of what they have paid such a price to give us.
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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.