Faith Matters: Imagining the voice of the fallen

By GARY BOURBEAU

Pastor, Gill Church

Published: 05-26-2023 2:25 PM

I wonder what more fitting words could be spoken than those that might be heard from a poppy and flag adorned grave. A grave whose occupant possessed greater courage and character than the many who disparage their country while accepting all she has to offer. A person who has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Here are the words I have written from the perspective of a fallen soldier.

I died young. I didn’t want to die, but I answered America’s call and I came to her defense. I won’t tell you I wore the uniform with the express intent of losing my life, but I considered the risks and found them acceptable. Many do the same for the object of their love or the one they strive to protect. Will you then, by extension of the love I have given, sing the great patriotic hymns with heartfelt gusto and enthusiasm? No need to be bashful or ashamed. Lift up your voice to the heavens, singing of the divinely blessed glories of this great land as you sing, “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.” Also, if you would, come to your feet smartly, with your hat off and your hand over your heart as you sing the opening refrain of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” your national anthem. Stand attentively as the colors are carried past.

When called upon to do so, vote. I know you have busy lives, but they are much shorter than you might realize, and you don’t want to be consumed with thoughts of things you wish you had done. I realize now it’s often the little things in life that are the most meaningful – family and friends, community events, public service, church, civic participation. You may not recognize the value of those moments until they become memories. Strive to discover and address those things bigger than yourselves. Appreciate them for your own sake, and preserve them for those who are to follow.

Now I want to remind you of your country’s charter, the Bill of Rights, which recognizes certain unalienable, God-given rights. They are not granted by the benevolence of the government, but by your Creator, and therefore cannot be taken away save by your consent. Please don’t devalue or debase through apathy that which I and others have so dearly paid to preserve. Likewise, remember that as an American, you enjoy privilege only dreamed of by others beyond our borders. Such is the civilization and society that has grown up around the home, the schoolhouse, the town meeting and the church. These grand traditions are upheld and supported only through your participation, the cornerstone being worship, by which they become meaningful.

My freedom is now complete in the presence of my Lord. Yours remains fragile. Live to protect it and honor it. Enjoy the events of Memorial Day. The parades with the high school drum corps, the scouts, the firefighters and police, the kids at roadside waving their flags, the young recruits and the old vets marching and looking smart in their old army khakis.

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But hey, I’ve kept you long enough. I know you are eager to get to that cookout with family and friends. Have a burger for me and my buddies, will you?

Good bye, God bless you, and God bless America.

As for you oh fallen hero, your days of combat are over. Your swords are rust and the thunder of your foe’s cannon is a distant echo. You are done with the incommunicable experience of war. A soldier is buried on the battlefield:

And when the wind in the treetops roared
The soldier spake from his silent tent of green,
Did the banner flutter then?
Not so my friend the wind replied.
For the fight is done and the banner won,
Thy friends have borne it hence,
Have born it in triumph hence.
And the soldier spake, I am content.

Then he heareth the lovers laughing pass,
And the soldier asks once more,
Are these the voices that love, that love and remember me?
Not so my hero the lovers reply.
We are those that remember not.
For the spring has come and the earth has smiled
And the dead must be forgotten.
And the soldier again spake from his silent tent of green I am content.

Gary Bourbeau is Pastor of the Gill Church, a non-denominational, bible preaching and teaching ministry emphasizing the Lordship of our Savior Jesus Christ. Worship services are Sundays at 9:30 a.m. The town of Gill Memorial Day service begins at the church Sunday, May 28 at 9:30 a.m. and continues across the road to the veterans’ memorial.

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