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‘The highest obligation and privilege of citizenship’

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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General George S. Patton was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg, alongside wartime casualties of the Third Army, per his request to 'be buried with my men.' (Credit: Michel Dieleman via en.wikipedia.org)

“We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us” (attributed to George Orwell).
 
Memorial Day is observed each year on the last Monday in May.  It honors the 1.3 million Americans who died while serving in the U.S. military.  Today was originally called Decoration Day, since families decorated the graves of their fallen loved ones on this day.  The observance began in the years after the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Many consider today to be “America’s most solemn occasion.”  At 3:00 this afternoon local time, a moment of remembrance will take place.  All Americans are asked to pause for one minute of reflection, gratitude and unity.

Famed U.S. General George Patton advised, “Live for something rather than die for nothing.”  He noted: “The highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”  How can we “bear arms” for those whose sacrifice we remember today?

One: express your gratitude personally.  Paul said to the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you” (Ephesians 1:16a).  If you know survivors whose loved ones died in military service, reach out to them today.  Call or send a note or email to express your gratitude on this difficult but significant day.  Go to a military cemetery or grave in your community, and pay your respects.

Two: pray for those who lost loved ones in the service of our country.  Paul continued, “. . . remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16b).  Be specific in your intercession, and continue to pray daily.

Three: stand for the ideals our soldiers died to protect.  I have asked numerous veterans what I can do to express my gratitude for their sacrifice.  Each one, without fail, has answered: Make this a country worth defending.  For Christians, working and praying for moral and spiritual awakening is the front line of the spiritual battle of our time.

This day reminds us that no price for our nation is too high.  Consider the story of Nathan Hale.  When the War for Independence began, he joined his five brothers in fighting the British.  Before a very strategic battle, General Washington asked for a volunteer to go on a spy mission behind enemy lines.  Hale stepped forward.  Disguised as a Dutch teacher, he spent a week gathering information on the position of British troops.  He was discovered on September 21, 1776.  The next day, just before he was hanged, he made his famous declaration: “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

Poet Wallace Bruce described the fallen heroes we remember today: “Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours.”  Let’s do our duty well.