The men and women who struggled and paid the ultimate sacrifice are much more than names etched on marble or perfectly aligned white crosses scaling the soils of our land and beyond. The spirits of those fallen in the line of duty generate an emotional and inexplicable response of honor, remembrance and gratitude not only in the hearts of their loved ones, but also in those fellow Americans who are blessed by their stories and examples. Their courage to enter battle began with the fundamental belief in human dignity for all, which at the core states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (The Declaration of Independence). The men who penned these words and those who shortly thereafter defended them, knew not of their impact on us today – their sacrifices have led to many more in the years since, and will continue to inspire ever more to protect what is right.
Sacrifice is an enigma offered to us in a multitude of ways, but the commonalities always stand true – sacrifice puts others above self, and although painful, sacrifice yields unforeseen and sometimes incomprehensible gifts of the heart.
I logically knew our soldiers and their families make daily sacrifices for us, but it wasn’t until I sat at the nurses station of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany that my mind could see the physical, life changing sacrifices made (Landstuhl provides urgent and short term care to all injured, sick and ill soldiers from “down range”). It wasn’t until shortly thereafter when my heart ached with a new level of compression as I walked the Normandy American Cemetery on the anniversary of D-Day with two of my Army Nurse Corp friends. It wasn’t further until I found myself walking tenderly with weighted steps, and alone, in attempt to allow my emotions to roll off my cheeks that my feet led me to the chapel in the center of the cemetery. I saw a strong grown man in uniform come heavily down the steps wiping his eyes and leaning on the support of a fellow soldier. I was frozen and couldn’t muster up the words to say “thank you for your service,” as those words could not encapsulate all I wanted to say or all he needed to hear. It wasn’t until I entered that chapel, turned to my right and saw the words which shed light on understanding the depth of that soldiers tears – “Think not only upon their passing, Remember the glory of their spirit.”
There are no comparisons of these sacrifices to the world of sport which won’t seem like a trite example. There are however real lessons which can be learned and applied, even if we do not understand the reasoning behind the loss of life in protection of a nation and the maintenance of freedom. For example, the National Anthem is played before every sporting event, not just because it’s a nice tradition, but listen to the words and allow it to remind us of why and how we are able to pursue our passions – think of the men and women serving so that you might have the opportunity to freely compete to the best of your abilities. Honor those who have fallen by remembering and carrying their spirit into your game. Every time you hear the first whistle blown, offer up a thank you and show your gratitude by leaving it all on the field or court. Never give up, no matter the challenge, as our service members are proof of overcoming setbacks to do what is right, to glorify those who came before, and to put others before themselves.
We do not always know or understand the Lord’s plans for us, but if we trust in His Truth and commit to giving our all to our passions, we might be completing the piece of His plan we are unable to foresee. We all have others surrounding us, be it on a team, in a family, within a school, or in this great nation of ours – what are we doing with our own unique abilities and gifts to put those others first?