Veterans Day and Sacrifice

A couple of years ago we visited Washington, D. C., for the first time. We took a trolley tour at dusk to view the monuments. The night air was chilly, but standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial—literally at Abe’s feet—was awe-inspiring. Walking along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and touching the names with my fingertips brought tears to my eyes. Seeing Franklin D. Roosevelt in his wheelchair reminded me that the word “handicap” should only apply to golfers. Visiting Mount Vernon and strolling on the estate where our very first president, George Washington, once lived was a humbling experience.

If I could sum up the trip in one word it would be “sacrifice.” Being in our nation’s capital made me appreciate the men and women who sacrificed their time, their personal lives, and, in many cases, their lives to establish our country. No other place reminded me of this like Arlington National Cemetery. We walked to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guard. There were hundreds of tourists from all over the world watching with us, and the silence was so complete you could have heard a pin drop. As we were walking back down the hill to catch the bus, I heard something that really gave me pause. In the distance was a bugle playing Taps. It was a clear, cold sunny day. A gentle breeze was blowing through the cherry trees. Everywhere I looked there were white tombstones, rows and rows of them as far as I could see.

Is there any way for us to really understand the blood, sweat, and tears that have taken our nation this far? Can schoolchildren understand the meaning of the word sacrifice in terms of the history of our country? Are there words to express our appreciation to veterans and families who have lost sons and daughters in battle, and just last week in the shooting at Fort Hood?  Saying “Thank you and I’m sorry for your loss,” just doesn’t seem like enough to families whose hearts are heavy with grief.

Today, on Veterans Day, we pause to honor those who have served this great nation. There will be parades and speeches. Bands will play and tears will be shed by families who have lost loved ones in battle, those whose sons and daughters are still serving, and the families of those slain at Fort Hood.  Let’s pray for them and ask God to bless them for they understand all too well the meaning of the word sacrifice.

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