I am a Pastor. We have many Military families in our Congregation. We have two National Cemeteries fairly close to where we live and worship. We have local Heroes from our towns with numerous bridges and streets renamed in their memory just within the last decade. I am glad that our two towns: Patchogue and Medford still have their own Memorial Day Parades.
There are some other Memorial Days that I have attended and, at times, officiated: the funeral service of a military family. Veterans from all military branches now laid to rest with their fellow comrades in life - and now in death. What tremendous reverence and solemnity have I been able to witness on such occasion! The details of each may vary but the Respect and Honor remain the same: “Here is Someone who gave their life-or part of their life- in Service for us.”
From police escorts or honorary motorcycle motorcades or the seal of their military branch on the side of the funeral hearse, the memo is clear to the living: “Make way for this honored Hero! You may be in a hurry to get to your next appointment or just in a hurry in general but get over because this One cared enough to go make a difference while the Rest of us just went on with our regular lives and Freedoms.”
How sad it is to still see people cut in-and-out of these funeral processions as they make their way to Calverton National or Long Island National Cemetery annoyed that they had to actually slow down for the funeral procession of a Veteran! I was thrilled to be a part of one such procession where the on-ramps to Sunrise Highway in front and in back of the procession were completely blocked so that we were the only ones on that section of the highway.
Attend the funeral of a veteran. Hear them play “Taps”. Watch the Honor Guard fold the Stars and Stripes. See them salute its triangular-shape: a salute of honor to the Dead. Watch them present the Flag to the widow, widower, or child. Watch them salute the family member and that flag now hugged to their chest: a salute of thanks to the Dead and to the family for their sacrifice. Watch the tears roll down the cheeks of those around you. Tears of sorrow but also tears of grateful pride to have this family member honored in this way!
Remember this Memorial Day that for many families this day is very personal. They have stood at the graveside of someone who gave their life in Service of this country. Whether their family member has died in combat or died after leaving their military service, they have still have had a very personal memorial day.
Thank you for your Sacrifice!!
Pastor Stephen Willoughby
Pastor Steve grew up in Columbia,South America, where his parents served as missionaries for 25 years. After graduating from Capital Bible Seminary, he was invited to serve as Assistant Pastor at FBCP. He has served in that capacity for twenty years before taking on the position of Senior Pastor.