Memorial Day was never a big celebration in our home growing up – or perhaps I was just insensitive to it. Seems like when you’re growing up on a farm, the end of May is more about hay season and getting work done. I regret that I didn’t do a better job teaching my children the TRUE meaning of Memorial Day. As I think about the Veterans in my life (my dad, my husband, my stepson), each of them embody the things that Memorial Day serves to remind us of. Dad has this story he tells about being in basic training, and he was caught asleep under a tree one day, and the Sergeant comes and wakes him up and gets in his face and hollers, “Vannest, whatcha you think you’re doing, sleeping on the job? I’m gonna recycle you!” “Recycle” meant start over, and Dad said it happened to guys frequently. He was on his last week or so of training. He just smarts right back, “Well, Sarge, I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather spend my time with than you!” I’m sure you can guess that the “Sarge” changed his mind and got rid of that smart mouth as soon as he could.
When our son Tommy was in the Marines, I was never prouder of him. He rose to the occasion of whatever was asked of him, and he had a bond and a comradery with his Marine brothers that was so special. At his wedding, we all came home with this wonderful feeling of what great friends Tommy had, and how they sacrifice for each other. The brotherhood of the armed forces reminds me of the brotherhood of Christ – you are in this together, for each other, in the thick and the thin, there to carry each other when you’re weak and to celebrate with each other when times are good. One time we got to be at Camp Lejeune when Tommy was coming back from Iraq, and all the family stood for hours waiting on the base where their plane was going to fly in. The feeling of excitement and longing for each other was palpable in this crowd – so many mothers and children and new babies that had not been held by their father, just so much emotion.
We stood there waiting and waiting, with signs and banners, and when the plane touched down, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. They did a march in formation of some sort, and we thought we’d get to just grab Tommy up and head home. Not so. There had been some incident, and someone did something wrong, and they all got punished and had to stay there in formation for hours, marching or something that I now can’t remember, but he didn’t get to come home for another six hours or more. We couldn’t believe it. How unfair! But that’s the way the military works – one for all, in the good and in the bad. One of Tommy’s groomsmen couldn’t be in his wedding because he had literally blown his face up with an IED the day before. But there at the reception, in he came – bandaged all over, but he was not going to miss his buddy’s wedding. They truly were there for each other – and they are THERE FOR AMERICA! We forget – we just take for granted their sacrifice as we live our peaceful, free lives.
One of our friends from church had been a prisoner of war in World War II. When he came home, his own mother didn’t recognize him. He had been locked up by the Germans for many, many years, abused in unspeakable ways. And when he came home, his wife had gotten saved and become best friends with this German lady that lived next door. He left a place of German curses and abuses, and he comes home to America and gets to hear this German accent every time he turns around. He said he hated her – he didn’t even know her, but her accent just fueled the fire of his hate. It wasn’t long after he came home that these two women who had prayed for him for years were able to watch as he surrendered his life to Christ. And one of the greatest miracles of salvation – the minute he stepped up from that altar, Christ cleansed his heart of that hate and gave him a love for this woman who had helped take care of his family while he was gone. And as these couples ended their days, they continued living next door to each other and taking care of each other, committed to each other.
Another one of our friends tells of making God a promise while in a fox hole in Vietnam, as his buddies were getting picked off one by one, that if God allowed him to make it home, he would serve him. God did allow him to live (one of very few out of that battle), and he came home and did not immediately make it right with God. But you see, God doesn’t give up on us, and he doesn’t cut us off from promises we have made to him, but he pursues us until we reconnect with him. God got him a job building the Nazarene church, where he was around Godly men like Jarrell Snodgrass and others, who eventually led him to the Lord. He would recount that he still had PTSD many, many years later, flashbacks and the like, but God was faithful and had saved him to the core and changed his life.
When I think about the sacrifices made by our men and women in the military – not seeing their children born, years going by that they have not attended a ball game or special event, losing not only memories, but body parts as well to the battles they have been sent to, some of which they did not even believe in – we cannot honor these men and women enough, we cannot ever show our appreciation enough. Every time I attend a funeral and see our Veterans participate by carrying a flag or playing Taps, or just by attending in their uniforms, I am overwhelmed by gratefulness and respect for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their living life and sometimes their dying life. From me and my house, TODAY AND ALL DAYS, WE HONOR YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.