"Most eternal God, as Americans, We want to thank you for this great country. We are not proud, but humbled, that in your divine sovereignty we were born or naturalized in such a nation as this.
Thank you for those serving and who have served in the military that protect this country of ours. Thank you for those men and women in our military services who were willing to give their lives and who gave their lives to fight to keep this country free ... "
This was the start of one of my memorial day prayers while stationed on Okinawa, Japan (1999-2002). I felt extremely pastoral on this day of many days. This was my opportunity to speak to God for our people and offer our thanks for those who laid down their lives for their friends.
Memorial Day has special significance for all of us, and it has significant meaning for me as a former military chaplain serving in the United States Navy with sailors and Marines. Our freedom has been protected by people who have served in the military; many gave the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.
Often, for many of our military who died in action, a chaplain is the last person in charge of their soul. In harm's way, these faithful servants of God do not just stand beside the men and women in various branches of the service, we wear the uniform.
A chaplain's work continues much farther than the base chapel. We labor in jungles, deserts, mountains, on ship at sea and in the air; wherever our people are stationed, the chaplain is there.
Our congregation is much different from a neighborhood church. It is primarily younger men and women, and these congregations can change, through transfers and deployments, every two to three years. They also come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some from the city, and some from the country.
We live, work, and play together; we cry, laugh and bemoan together; we hurt, feel loneliness and anger together; celebrate, rejoice and glorify together. When conducting services on deployments overseas we do not get into our cars and drive to our homes away from our membership and not see them until the next service. We walk to the chow hall or the barracks or even to the brig to do ministry and sometimes that ministry is just of presence.
Memorial Day for military members is a somber day. It is a day to reflect on friends lost, comrades who gave the last measure for the cause of freedom. We reflect on how God has guided us through battles, storms and driving wind. How God has allowed some us to remain to proclaim the honor of our fallen friends, wounded nonetheless but still here.
Our country is still occupied in war; not only are military men and women in constant danger, but their loved ones have many concerned trepidations.
When you pray on Memorial Day you should pray with the intent of remembrance and thankfulness. Before you go out and barbeque or hit the beach I want you to offer a prayer for our fallen military heroes and their loved ones. The following is a beautiful Memorial Day prayer by a colleague in ministry Austin Fleming.
Shall we pray?
In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let each of us name and call on the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing ...
You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.
Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone ...
Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own
and give us hearts as generous as theirs ...
Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice ...
Help us to shape and make a world
where we will lay down the arms of war
and turn our swords into ploughshares
for a harvest of justice and peace ...
Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones
and let your healing be the hope in our hearts...
Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.
Amen. The peace of God be with you.