All the American flags in our town were flying at half-staff last August, and for the first time in my life I knew why. Not in a general, something-bad-must-have-happened sense, but in a specific, heartbreaking, knowing-a-face-and-a-name sense. My husband was deployed in Afghanistan at the time with the Army National Guard, and one of the soldiers in his unit had been killed in an IED blast. The unit was only a few months into this deployment, and already our worst nightmare had come true.
We had lost one of our own.
I stood outside of the funeral home on the night of the visitation and stared, perplexed, at all the half-staff flags. I was here for the very same reason the flags were down. My husband and I didn’t know the soldier or family very well; we had transferred to this unit just a few weeks before the deployment started. But I stood at the funeral home with other wives from our unit, feeling the fear and the heartbreak that so many military wives have felt before.
We held hands and spoke prayers and expressed our support for the wife and family of the soldier who had given the ultimate sacrifice.
I left the funeral home at dusk. The last of the pink sunlight was clinging to the edges of the sky, and all the half-staff flags on the street were now dark silhouettes. All I could think was, I know why. I feel why those flags are lowered. For the rest of that week, every time I saw one of those flags at half-staff, I would remember. Remember, and mourn, and pray until my voice was hoarse that God would bring comfort, healing and peace.
The Importance of Remembrance
Remembering is important, because we live in a busy culture that makes us prone to lose sight of important things.
We are prone to forgetfulness. We make lists just so we can remember the things we need to accomplish today. Our minds get filled to capacity so quickly and we lose sight of things that are genuinely important. And even though we must focus on the here and now, living in the present circumstances God has given us, today is not all there is.
There are moments and events and people before us who have shaped our country, our families and our hearts. We can’t forget the people who have sacrificed for us. We can’t forget the families, many within our own Body, that have mourned and hurt and cried out to God in despair over the loss of their loved ones in war.
They are a part of us. They shape who we are.
Memorial Day is a time for remembering. We have a whole day set aside to remember the soldiers and families who have sacrificed so much for us. We celebrate our freedom. We mourn the sacrifices made. We meditate on the fact that God is sovereign over all of it and we thank Him for always being in control, even when there is heartbreak.
I know there will be barbecues to go to, family to see and potato salad that won’t make itself, but I’m asking you to commit with me to remembering and praying. Remember the sacrifices made for us. Remember the soldiers who dedicated their lives to our freedom, our protection, and the protection of others. Remember the families who are mourning and mourn with them.
But don’t stop at remembering—bring it all before God, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). God cares deeply for those who are hurting, and He is the one who can bring comfort, who continues to be sovereign over the difficulties we face.
The People We Remember
I don’t know where you stand on the military or the war. But this is not a day for political debates. Memorial Day is about people, probably some in your own community. Put aside the stances and questions for the day and focus on people. Focus on remembering and praying for people who are hurting, who have experienced loss, who have looked at a flag at half-staff and known too deeply why it was lowered.
When you see a flag on Monday, I want you to pause and take a breath. Stop, remember, then lift up our soldiers, military families, and our country to the One who holds it all in His steady hands.
This piece was originally published in 2013.
Kristi Metz is a writer, English teacher and Army wife. She writes about life, faith and the military.