Memorial Day: A New Appreciation

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     This is the long weekend that we Americans mark as a time of remembrance and recognition of military service to our country. We have a long tradition in our nation’s history of honoring those who have fought and died to secure our freedoms. Memorial Day originated in the years after the Civil War to honor the Union and Confederation soldiers who died in battle and was known as Decoration Day, when the graves of the dead were decorated with flowers. After World War I, however, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, and graves are now decorated with American flags, and recognition of service is now extended to all our military, both living and deceased.
     I wanted to take the time this year to share my new perspective on this national holiday. As I’ve written before, I am the proud daughter of a World War II veteran, who enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 (with parental consent) after Pearl Harbor. He served in the Pacific as a tail-gunner in the Lockheed PV Ventura, a low-level bomber. He was always proud of his service, though he didn’t share any of his experiences; typical of that generation. I have always viewed Memorial Day as an opportunity to honor him and the men and women who have volunteered to serve in every war since.
    But this past year has brought newfound appreciation for what this day should mean to all of us. You see, this past year I had the honor to serve on a team with extraordinary women veterans as part of a Christian Warriors Retreat. These women included veterans from the Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm) and the ongoing War on Terror (Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom). The retreat involved older veterans mentoring younger veterans, and covered all branches of the military. While they shared an identity as combat veterans, these women were seeking a common bond in their identity as Daughters of Christ. And I witnessed both the struggles and the victories of that co-mingling of identities in my Sisters.
     As non-military (I served as a Team Leader and Assistant Spiritual Director), I could not relate to their military experiences, but I could sympathize with them as women. Everything that the Enemy of this world has crafted against women to kill, steal, or destroy the beauty and magnificence of who God created them to be is intensified in the military. I will not share specific testimonies, but I will tell you that although PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) has become a term relegated to the military, it is a spiritual attack on anyone who has suffered a traumatic event and is in need of Jesus’s saving healing and deliverance. As one of our female veterans exclaimed, “Pain is pain is pain!” She was making the point that we all suffer from the devil’s attacks on our lives and these women needed to recognize that they had a higher identity than their military service. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be proud of [or acknowledged for] their service, but that whatever their life’s history, inside or outside of the military, their identity as the Bride of Christ was a truer identity.
     I cannot tell you how my enduring relationships with these amazing women has changed my life. As I think about the people across this country celebrating Memorial Day, I honor these brave women who have done extraordinary things for our country, and I am blessed with the richness of their friendships, grounded in a Sisterhood of growing love and obedience to our Savior. And as I contemplate their impact on my life, I am struck by two concepts: the constant use of “remembrance” in the Bible; and the history of women warriors in the Bible that saved the nation of Israel. 
     The Hebrew word for “remembrance” is Zakar.  It means to “remember; think of; mention”.  We see it in the Bible passages in the Old Testament: God remembered Noah…. God remembered Abraham… I (God) have remembered My covenant…. remember the Sabbath Day… remember His marvelous works.  Then there is the Hebrew word for memorial, which is Zikrown; a memorable thing, day, or writing. It should be obvious that remembering and memorials are important to God: for instance, after crossing the River Jordan into the Promised Land, God instructed the Israelites to build a memorial to what He had done for them. 
     Today and this weekend, it is important to remember what God has done in our lives; the people whom He has worked through in our lives; the experiences He has brought us through — when these remembrances are shared among the brethren, it builds our faith, just as God intended those ancient memorials to do. And that is exactly what I have experienced this past year with my Sisterhood of women warriors.
     Just like the Biblical heroine Deborah, these women military veterans are leaders. Although Deborah is most often understood to have been a Judge among the nation of Israel, it didn’t mean the same as it does now. In the Bible, a “judge” was a tribal leader who, in times of peace had the authority to settle disputes. And in times of war, they were the rallying point to gather the tribes and organize resistance. Judges were seen as “God’s people” and their gender was unimportant.
     That is exactly how I see this Sisterhood of veterans. All these women walk in their authority as Disciples of Jesus. They walk as leaders who know their true identities, and they are growing into a viable rallying point in their families and communities to organize resistance against the devil. They know who their real Enemy is, and it is not in some foreign land. They also know whose Army they fight in, and under whose flag they march. Although I have never taken the oath of allegiance to our nation as they have, we have all taken an oath to serve our Mighty King and march behind the flag of Jehovah Nissi, the banner that is our rallying point for the power of God to destroy the Kingdom of darkness.
     So, this Memorial Day, I am reminded of the respect [I have always felt] for those who have fought in our nation’s historical wars. I honor the sacrifices that have been made and I vow to always remember what my freedom in this world has cost the men and women who answered the call to serve. But this Memorial Day is different from last year’s. This year, I have a newfound awareness of what the Biblical and heavenly perspective of this day has for me. I am deeply honored to be in the company of men and women who embody this world’s identification of “soldier”, but more importantly, they manifest the character, discipline, loyalty, and obedience of a spiritual warrior in God’s army. Although I have centered this blog post around my experiences with these amazing female veterans, the founder of Christian Warrior’s Retreat is a man that I greatly admire; he has a heart to serve God and share the restoration that the love of Christ brought to his life. Because of that saving grace of God in his life, I reaped the benefits of serving on the first female veteran retreat.
     So, I want to thank the Lord for creating these Divine appointments in my life. I am blessed and favored beyond description. And I have found a Sisterhood that lifts me, inspires me, supports me, teaches me, and loves me. I thank you all for your service to our nation and to God’s Kingdom! 

To Nick and his wife Nicki; to Valerie, Molly, Cathy, Gloria, Mary, Dona, Sherrae, Louise, LaTisha, Liza, Nalleli, Maricruz, and Alissa; to Wanda, Debbie, Karalyn and Loretta; and to all the “team” — it was a privilege to experience retreat with you and I bless each of you with continued service to our glorious God!

Psalm 103:2   Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness You’ve done for me?