As I spent time discussing in my post Friday, the United States is celebrating Memorial Day this weekend. Today is, of course, officially Memorial Day (changed from Decoration Day, as I noted with chagrin on Friday). Out of the 365 days of every year, this is the day on which Americans are asked to remember and honour those who have died in America’s uniform, on our soil or in foreign lands.
During our church’s annual Memorial Day service this morning, our pastor noted that for Americans, to remember and honour our dead servicemen and women is not just a duty but a privilege. I’m glad he gave everyone a moment to digest that, because he is correct. (Our pastor is a Marine, with service in Vietnam.)
As always, I wish to do something, however small, to honour these men and women who gave all while carrying America’s flag. Words cannot express to you how much I appreciate, admire, and kind of hero-worship our armed forces for all they do; it is important for me to do something. Thus, last week, I drove up to Sunbury, a small town about 10 miles outside of Columbus. Driving through late last month, we saw a war memorial we were unfamiliar with, and I wanted to share it with you and honour those memorialized.
Photographing this was very difficult. The dates are so recent—which sounds like an inane thing to say, especially for someone who follows the news as I do, but there it is. Upon first seeing this place a few weeks ago, I did not realize the Ohio Fallen Heroes’ Memorial is meant specifically to honour those who have died in the War on Terror, but as I processed this while standing there, it seemed quite fitting, and I was glad despite my sorrow. Sometimes I wonder if these young men and women are not being recognized as they ought to be. Are they not as courageous, as self-sacrificing, as American as those who have died in uniform during other wars?
Adding to the sort of bittersweetness—grieved by the loss of so many, yet glad and relieved to see they’re being honoured —is that it’swonderfully done, simple (as our military would no doubt prefer) and set on Main Street in a small Ohio town, resting between the library and a row of big-porched houses beneath huge trees. If our men and women must fall in battle, this is the sort of Memorial they should have, placed just so, in the middle of town, between two of the things that serve as the foundation to freedom, families and free access to knowledge.
There was a family playing catch in their backyard as I worked, and it did seem perfect to me, because these are the people our military works to protect. The family played in perfect happiness and peace—because as the saying goes, rough men stand ready to visit violence upon those who would do that family, and the rest of us, harm.
So many, who would never see their families again, never see those pretty hometown sights I shared on Friday that they surely looked forward to laying their eyes upon again.
Lest we forget, they are still dying. A war widow attended our church’s service today with her two small children, and our church gave her the colours in honour of her husband. His parents and one of his brothers sat with her as the flag was presented. Could any decent human stand there, thinking of her heroic husband and her fatherless children and not cry? Regardless of your feelings and thoughts about the war—these men and women go willingly, regardless of their thoughts and feelings.
The Memorial is privately supported and run; the city donated the land and many people apparently stepped in to help, as they should. Private donations are accepted, and on the donation page is written this:
Each service member is recognized as an individual; someone who is dearly missed by family and friends. This Memorial is a place where returning veterans and family members who have lost friends or comrades can remember and honor them.
…The fallen heroes of Ohio have given the ultimate sacrifice to their country and state. One of the ways we can honor their sacrifice is by remembering them.
There is a face to go with each and every cross–and cross yet to be erected—at the Fallen Heroes Memorial.
Today is not about barbeques, yardwork, summer, or the beach: It is about these brave souls and what they have done. Whether you are from Ohio or not, I do ask that you take a moment to sit down, look at these men and women, and pray for their families and everyone they left behind for the sake of something greater than themselves.
God gives each of us many days more than we deserve. We have one day a year set aside in honour of these selfless persons. Paying tribute is not much to be asked, after all they have done.
So please: Remember and honour them. Please do not forget these men and women, because they deserve so much more.
The Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial in Sunbury, Ohio holds a ceremony and Gold Star Family reception on the Saturday nearest September 11th each year; 2014’s ceremony will be September 6. Donations are accepted by this nonprofit, and those interested may also purchase a brick for the Memorial’s courtyard in honour of any member of the National Guard, Reserves, or branch of the US Military.