Remembering those who died for our country Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, May. 21, 2020 -- 12:00 AM

Navy Chaplain Curtiss Dwyer stated that Memorial Day originally was known as Decoration Day.

It was a day to decorate the graves of more than 600,000 men who died in the Civil War, which was our nation's costliest war in terms of human life.

Some modern experts place the Civil War's death total as higher.

Honoring those who have died

On Memorial Day, we honor all who have died in military service to our country.

One of these was Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor.

According to Chaplain Dwyer, on September 2006, three U.S. Navy SEALs were in an "overwatch" position on a Ramadi home roof with two Iraqi soldiers.

Suddenly a grenade bounced off his chest. Trapped, all five seemed doomed.

Then Mansoor flung himself on the grenade and saved his comrades' lives. He died 25 minutes later. His companions escaped with minor wounds.

For his heroic self-sacrificial action, he received posthumously the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military honor.

Monsoor's comrades escaped the deadly blast because he chose to sacrifice himself.

The freedom and salvation we know as Catholics are traceable to a specific choice made by Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and offering the gift of Heaven to faithful followers.

Chaplain Dwyer stated that Monsoor faithfully attended Catholic Mass prior to his missions. At the end of Mass, Monsoor and fellow worshippers were commissioned to, "Go in peace, glorifying God by your life."

He glorified God by dying to save his friends.

In John 15:13 it says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends!"

A time to remember and appreciate

Memorial Day invites us to remember and appreciate those who have died so that we might live freely.

The blessings of stability, prosperity, and freedom we enjoy are a testament to the price they paid.

We may tend to take their sacrifices for granted. In a restaurant, I proudly witnessed one of my former high school students thanking soldiers for serving.

Let us imitate her.

In Matthew 26:51-52, when the soldiers seized Jesus, it says, "One of those who followed Jesus drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant.

Jesus ordered, "Put your sword back in its sheath. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword."

Necessary to fight

Early Christians did not bear arms.

When Christ didn't come a second time in his glory to bring peace, some Christians concluded that sometimes it was necessary to fight to keep evil people from exploiting the weak and innocent.

Consequently, the Church formulated the Just War theory, which reluctantly permits war when the following conditions are met: The damage inflicted by the aggressor must be lasting, grave, and certain, and all other means of putting an end to it must have been impractical or ineffective.

There must be serious prospects of success, and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders greater than the evil to be eliminated.

An American veteran who was a Japanese POW for three years and survived the Bataan Death March explained, "War is always horrible, even when you're on the side of good and battling evil. Killing another human or holding a fallen comrade in your arms is never easy."

Some say that war never decides who is right, but only who is left.

A time to pray

Memorial Day is a graced time to attend Mass and pray for those killed in war.

Doing so reminds us that Christ made a conscious choice in the war against Satan to die on the cross and rise from the dead to free us from sin.

In no. 1364 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, "When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present. The sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present."

On Memorial Day we can remember what others such as Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor have done.

We can attend services and memorials to honor those who have died in military service and visit graves of fallen soldiers.

We can attend a parade, and fly the flag at half-staff.

We can buy a Buddy Poppy and thereby assist in maintaining rehabilitation and service programs for veterans.

We can pledge to aid widows, widowers, and orphans of those who died for our country.

We can participate in the National Moment of Remembrance which asks that at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day all Americans "voluntarily observe a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps."

In the words of "America the Beautiful," may God mend thine (America's) every flaw.

May we pray for the day when, "Nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, one nation will not raise their swords against another, nor shall they train for war again (Isaiah 2:4)"

May we be peacemakers in our home, neighborhood, country, and world.


Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.