I often think that one of the reasons the World War 2 generation was so successful and prosperous when they came home from the war was that they had to previously come to terms with the fact they would never see home again. Almost without exception, you see this from the historical accounts of the men who fought that war as accepting the fact that they were already dead allowed them to accomplish gallant feats in the face of overwhelming danger. Witnessing the carnage day after day that killed over 400,000 Americans and wounded another 600,000 must have implicitly ingrained in their hearts that if they were to survive this war they would consider themselves the luckiest son of a gun alive. And judging by what they accomplished after the war it certainly seems they believed it. In light of our genuine mourning on this upcoming Memorial Day, perhaps it is time this modern generation of Veterans gives a little thought to the day after. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what the fallen would be doing if they were given this 2nd chance from the grave and then just start doing just that as we might then find ourselves truly living.
The Day After Memorial Day
It never fails that yourself as a Veteran will get some sort of “thanks for your service” type comment on Memorial Day despite the fact that we know this holiday is not for the living. Most of us will take the opportunity to remind the person of that fact while many will just grizzle Clint Eastwood style under our breath and move on. But for those of us who have survived any war, there seems something awfully incongruent about lamenting the fact that our brothers are not here with us today and yet squandering our very own lives this side of the uniform. Almost as if two men are in the running for a million dollars and the one that loses has to then watch the winner spend the entire sum on chia pets, bubbles, and cheap booze.
War is much more random than those who never fought it would realize. Certainly skill plays its obvious role and certain men invite death with gallant feats that cause the entire military community to pause and take notice. But for the most part, one squad patrols one street while a 2nd patrols another and depending on which street you get your life changes forever. How many of you have driven down a road in Iraq or Afghanistan without incident that just one-day prior made orphans and widows back home? For the most part the action of our GWOT experience was signifcantly less brutal than WW2 and perhaps that caused us to miss a very important lesson. The inescapable fact is that if you have deployed and are alive to read this today you have been given a 2nd chance at life and perhaps it is time we start living like it? Take a look at the video below for a first-hand account.
From Death to Life
A person who has been reborn lives a life in such a way that it reflects his new life. Meanwhile, a person who refuses to accept the fact that this life is a gift almost begrudges it. I’ve never hidden the fact on this blog that I am a Christian, but this essence of being brought from death to life is the entire nutshell of the Gospel. It’s not the modern moral debates we have in society or politics, but rather it’s the idea that we who were once dead and worthy of judgement have been made perfectly righteous and alive through Christ. We didn’t earn it and our morality didn’t get us here. Covered in Christ, the God of the Universe looks at you and says, “Mine, now live.”
When I tell people about the Gospel I do so not because I think I’m so smart so as to have found it, but more like one beggar telling another beggar where the food is at. Although I live this new life fascinatingly flawed, it has been a big part of my post-war life and the sum of my entire hope for the future. Now I realize not everyone believes as such, but you can take the notion of being brought from death to life and apply it to the GWOT experience. Listen, that young Marine in that video was dead. From the moment he stepped foot in country, he was dead. Until he was tapped on the shoulder and told to be alive. He has explicit cause to mourn the loss of his entire squad and while it no doubt has been a hard road the Marine chose to live. Hanging on to a life he would never live again and looking backwards would be the biggest dishonor he could do to his friends.
From Mourning to Action
The fallen in combat have given this nation the sum of their life, but if you will allow it they will keep on giving. Ask yourself why you mourn for your fallen brothers? If you answer it is because you miss them, then reach out to your brothers who are alive and fellowship with them. I’m a big fan of Boone Cutler’s Spartan Pledge which you can read below. If you miss your brother who has fallen, then take care of the ones who are alive. Invest in their lives, their businesses, and their families. The Vet-owned company StreetShares will literally let you invest in fellow Veterans directly through their businesses. If you mourn those who are not with us find a way to life with those who are.
If you mourn because you think of his wife who is now a widow, then might I suggest you go spend time with your wife. Enjoy her presence, invest in her, and if you can swing it go for a little nookie and tell her Unprecedented Mediocrity sent you. If you mourn when you think of the children who will not have a father, then go spend time with your own kids. Play with them, take them fishing, hunting, read to them or man just hug them and don’t let go. Don’t give your family a hollow version of yourself because I guarantee if the dead could rise again they would give their family all of themselves. Whatever causes you to mourn for their sake in their death should be your very own call to life.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have deployed you were in one sense dead, but now you are alive. Let us honor the fallen by living like it. Memorial Day is their day, but the day after is ours as it is the gift they purchased for us on our behalf. For their sake, do not squander it, do not hesitate to live it, and use your mourning to live a future without precedent. We are not a broken generation of Veterans. We are men and women who have been given a 2nd chance at life and it should be our mission to change the face of the nation in light of it. This life was the fallen’s final gift to us and the age of letting it sit unwrapped on the shelf is over. Live, all of you, live.
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