My life was forever changed on June 26, 2003 when I received the call. I could barely comprehend the words I heard, “Gunnar, Tom was shot and killed in Afghanistan.” I have been dealing with the reality of these words for nine years now and believe they will be with me for the rest of my life. Tom was a great Navy SEAL, husband, father of two young boys, and friend of mine. This one death created a wake of pain and agony in the hearts of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who knew and loved Thomas E. Retzer.
This is Memorial Day. A day set aside to remember those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This holiday has become a day connected with a three day weekend, BBQ, and fireworks. I am not one to ostracize these practices as I doubt my friends who were killed in action would support me, but I encourage you to remember those who have given all in practical ways by doing something this Memorial Day and at every opportunity you are given.
This Memorial Day my family and I will go to Fort Rosecrans a National Cemetery and visit the gravestones of my many friends who gave all in their service. Solomon says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man” (Ecc. 7:2). In facing death, we faced with the brevity of our lives and are force to consider the day when we also will face our Creator. I encourage you to visit a National Cemetery this Memorial Day. Walk the aisles of white gravestones, remember their sacrifice, and reflect on life.
As you walk the cemetery on Memorial Day, you will likely encounter people who served with or loved those who gave all. The Apostle Paul reminds us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). How do we bear one another’s burdens in these circumstances? There is no way to know what any given veteran has gone through, but impact of expressing gratitude to them cannot be overstated. A simple, “Thank you for your service and (or) sacrifice” goes a long way. In expressing this gratitude, you are taking a small burden from them, or at least help them carry their own load (Gal. 6:5).
Be on the alert. Be prepared to shake the hand of a service member and look them in the eye and say “Thank you for you service. I am praying for you.” This “thank you” is all the more powerful when it is coupled with you picking up their tab! Big group events are great displays of gratitude, but there is none more powerful than the individual touch. Only you can do this something!