“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

— Joseph Campbell

I walked through my community park this morning at just the right time.  It is Memorial Day, and the men from the local chapter of the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars had assembled in the parking lot in preparation for their annual flag-raising ceremony.  The color guard hoisted their flags, the men fell in behind, and they began their procession to the monument in the center of the park.

With reverence, five of the men peeled off from the group and moved toward the monument for the raising of the flag.

With the color guard standing by, and the firing squad a the ready,

they raised the red, white, and blue to the top of the pole and then silently lowered it to half-mast.

Words were spoken honoring those whose lives were lost defending our freedom.  Prayers were offered for those who had died and for the families that survived them.  Most importantly, promises were kept today — promises to remember and not let the fallen heroes be forgotten.

As the Star Spangled Banner played, I found myself becoming part of something enduring and proud and huge.  I watched the men, many of them my own father’s age, standing straight and tall as they paid tribute to their fallen comrades.  For a few short minutes, in the middle of my tiny town, they stood before a monument that might as well have been the gravestone of each fellow soldier they remembered from the time of their service, so long ago.  I pictured them at 18 or 19 or 20, younger than my own sons, fighting as men to defend the freedom I enjoy.

They prayed that the younger generation would remember to honor the sacrifice of the fallen heroes.  I looked into the faces of the Boy Scouts who stood at attention among the crowd.  Perhaps this would be the day that these young boys would connect with the sort of heroism that they have not yet experienced in their own lives.  We pray for peace.  We pray that these young men will not have to make the sort of sacrifices we honor today; but we pray that their hearts will be touched by the loss of young lives that we remember today.

With three salutes, the firing squad paid tribute to the fallen heroes.

Alone in the background, a solitary boy scout raised a bugle to his lips and blew out the poignant strains of Taps.  As the final note faded, the veterans rejoined their ranks and marched away from their duties at the flagpole.

As we enjoy our Memorial Day picnics, I hope we will take with us the true reason for this solemn holiday.  As we pray for peace, I hope we will take with us a true appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who had to fight.  We must carry their memory beyond the survivors of their generation.  We must remember.