When Heroes Abounded

I have always loved Memorial Day. In fact, I celebrate it every Saturday night.

My ritual for the end of the week—normally as I am preparing to speak the next day on Sunday morning—involves watching Combat!, “TV’s longest-running World War II drama.”1 When I am at home—or even in a hotel, if I can find it—I watch another adventure featuring the boys from the Company K, Second Platoon right before going to bed.

The soldiers represented by Sgt. Saunders and his men were heroes who rescued the world from tyranny in their generation. According to the National World War II Museum, more than 12 million Americans would be engaged in this conflict by 1945, serving in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.2 In total, “More than 16 million American men and women served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, and another 3.5 million worked as federal civilian employees during the war.”3 More than 400,000 of them sacrificed all that they had in this world—their very lives—for the cause of freedom; more than 670,000 additional men and women were wounded.4 When you watch something even as realistic as Combat!, you realize the level of the sacrifice that they made, and you begin to marvel that so many could return to live out healthy and productive lives.

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The Spiritual Discipline of Remembering

As an exercise in remembering, Memorial Day has a specific focus. My purpose is not to detract from remembrance of our nation’s warriors who have lost their lives in the defense of liberty. Rather, I want to put this particular act of remembrance in the larger context of remembering as a feature of the Christian way of life.

Deuteronomy 8 helps us do that. Here we find that the Bible not only speaks powerfully to us in times of trouble but that it has equally important things to say to us after troubled times have passed and things are going well again. What it calls us to do in this “good times after bad” scenario is intentionally look back and remember the struggle.

Some context: Deuteronomy is a series of sermons Moses delivered in the plains of Moab before Israel crossed over into the land of promise. The “children of Israel” have endured four decades of wilderness life, and though they are about to face hardship of a different kind during the conquest, they are also going to experience unparalleled prosperity.

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