From Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Recessional,” many of us connect the phrase “lest we forget” to remembrance of our country and military as a reminder and a plea not to forget past sacrifices. Although not written for that purpose originally, the phrase has become a humble epitaph found as the lone inscription on many war memorials and spoken in many military addresses. As common usage spread after World War I, this simple phrase has been a reminder to ground us in humility and as a reminder of God’s dominance in our lives, the world and past events.
For many in this nation, the observance of the fourth Monday in May has taken on more and more special significance during our lifetimes. The long-term conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have impacted so many families and individuals in our community. For many more of us, it also rekindles memories not only of the aftermath of different, more-dated conflicts, but of customs observed by many of us from little on up.
This most sacred holiday is more than just one of our current three-day weekends. Many people use this day as a reminder of loved ones lost and another chance to heal from the hurt of lives cut far too short, families torn apart and the agony of mourning. They not only remember their fallen, but live their lives with thoughts of what could have been and ask all the “why” questions. It is a chance for closure, but that doesn’t come for many.
I remember growing up in the rural Midwest, in an era when May 30 was “Decoration Day,” when the whole family went to the little cemetery by our old, wood church. We cleaned all the gravesites and the headstones, and other families helped clean the grounds. I learned a lot from the stories about those I knew and those I didn’t have the chance to know. As I grew older, I learned that not only was this day a day to remember all our loved ones, but to honor our military as well.
I stand with all my Vietnam veteran brothers in saluting all our men and women serving in every branch of our armed forces, and especially those brave men and women who unselfishly sacrificed their lives so that we can live free and feel protected in this great country. For all the fallen in every war and conflict of the past, Memorial Day is only one day sanctioned and set aside to honor our fallen. But I also know that many of my surviving brothers remember, whether by flashback, prompted personal recollection or by daily devotionals.
Many of us are searching for ways to honor our veterans. Let us never forget the survivors of our fallen and the highs and lows of each and every day for them. There are so many families out there who suffer the pain of loss, who still are plagued by thoughts of growing older without their loved one and widows and widowers who have gone through life alone.
The Stephen Ministry team — many of us fellow veterans — are trained to help make a difference to those who carry the burdens of loss. We understand and are here for you. Please call 320-7840 for a confidential appointment with a trained, faith-based man or women to help you or someone you know with issues of closure. The Stephen Ministry program is a globally recognized ministry found on the web at stephenministries.org.
Scherer is a crisis intervention minister and the leader of the local Stephen Ministry.