Summary: Memorial Day is often celebrated to recognized the sacrifices made by our military servicemen. Jesus made a similar sacrifice.
It’s 3am on a cold winter day. Patchy snow covers the landscape as Loudspeakers overhead blare telling everyone to get to their places. Surrounded by sandbags, concrete barriers and roughly 10,000 soldier, sailors, airman and marines, Bagram Air Base has flipped a switch and turned from a deployed city in sleep, to a sea of green and tan military awaiting further direction. Some just woken from a few moments of sleep, others leaving their duties to attend to more pressing concerns, all focused on the events that are about to unfold. Down the 3 mile main road of this Afghanistan base, standing shoulder to shoulder men and women in arms, awaiting to pay their respects to a fallen comrade. Soon, the lights of emergency vehicles can be seen slowly making their way up the boulevard. Escorts, leading a flatbed trailer to an awaiting C-17 cargo plane on it’s way back to the United States. On the trailer are 3 caskets draped in U.S. Flags and as the trailer approaches the lines or servicemen lining the streets, each pays their respects by saluting sharply the men and women who have paid the ultimate price. Once the trailer reaches the plane, the formation is dismissed. Thousands of servicemen in the middle of a war zone, paying homage and respect the best way they know how. Similar ceremonies are played out in other parts of the world. All to show the love and respect for the sacrifices and dedicated duty our military servicemen and women show on a daily basis. Memorial Day is about remembering these fallen heroes, and honoring their sacrifices on our behalf.
Every conflict we’ve ever been involved in has had its share of casualties of both sons and daughters lost, often due to the unusual bravery they displayed in the midst of combat. Every once in a while, during those conflicts, something happens, a soldier does something, which is so out-of-the ordinary that Congress acknowledges that person’s efforts by awarding them the Medal of Honor. This award is presented to someone who distinguishes himself by gallantry at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. The deed performed must have been one of self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his comrades and must have involved risk of life. More often than not, these individual sacrifice themselves for the greater good of others.
One such individual was Douglas Albert Munro. The Medal of Honor was awarded to Petty Officer Munro as a result of his actions on September 27, 1942. Munro, in charge of a group of 24 Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a battalion of marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz Guadalcanal. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered marines, Munro, under constant strafing by enemy machineguns on the island, and at great risk of his life, daringly led 5 of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy's fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its 2 small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was instantly killed by enemy fire, but his crew, 2 of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Another such example is the sacrifice made by the Pat Tillman. Pat Tillman was a professional football player with the Arizona Cardinals who chose to leave that life of luxury behind him and join the U.S. Army. Pat eventually joined the special forces and found his way into battle in the Afghanistan countryside. Pat also paid the ultimate price.
There are many, many more such stories, but the picture is clear. Many men and women have put their lives in extreme danger for their comrades in arms, and, in some cases gave their lives, in order that the others might live. It seems in every war, in every battle, almost without exception, such heroic actions occur, sometimes from individuals you would least expect. I have no doubt that each time, in the days and weeks that followed, the recipients of such unselfishness were inspired to fight for their wounded or fallen comrades, perhaps with a greater zeal than ever before.
In a small, Middle Eastern country nearly 2,000 years ago, that’s exactly what happened. A closer look at this hero reveals some strong similarities to the heroes I just described, but also some significant differences.