This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16 (NIV)
I used to not pay attention at Veterans Day. To me, it was a day off of work with no rituals associated with it. No big family dinners, no fireworks or gift giving. Because school was usually in session, it was a “mommy day”; my day to do whatever I wanted with no one else to think about. Since my oldest son joined a military style organization ten years ago, Veterans Day took on new meaning. Both of my boys took part in a prisoner of war ceremony. Through music, readings about the sacrifices made by men and women for our freedom, and a moving ceremony where all branches of the military are represented by uniform hats laid on a table beside salt, symbolizing the tears shed, a red rose signifying valor, and a candle for light, it became clear to me that there is much about our country and its past that I take for granted. Now, when I go to the Veterans Day ceremonies, my heart is broken over the stories that I hear. An elderly man recounts his days spent as a prisoner of war in Japan working in a coalmine and how he was near death when finally liberated. Another tells of entering the Jewish death camps in Europe. Still another speaks of days adrift a sea when his ship sank in shark-infested waters. Women, working as nurses or support staff have equally intriguing stories as they remember being at Pearl Harbor, flying on the planes that airlifted wounded solders to safety, or working in munitions factories to make sure that the men that they loved had the weapons they needed to defend themselves. The parades take on greater meaning as I watch the fresh faced young men and women march by with their R.O.T.C. units and think that “the greatest generation” of World War II once set off with such eagerness. I hear the bands play with cymbals crashing and drums pounding. I watch the horses trot by tossing their heads, their riders holding waving flags. Tears fill my eyes, and I stand at attention as the national anthem swells through the air. On this day, despite the problems of our country, not only am I proud to be an American, but I am grateful for those who risked their lives so that the rest of us could live free. I am reminded that freedom is not just in getting to do whatever I want with no interference as I used to belive. Freedom means choosing to do whatever it takes to ensure that everyone enjoys the blessings of liberty. Like the many veterans who died for our country all the way from its beginning to present day, Christ gave His life for my sins and died in my place. They died so I might live in a free country. He died so that I might live free from sin and death. I have countless reasons to be grateful and many to thank as well.