It was gray … overcast. A rain shower had just passed through when I arrived at the Great Lakes National Cemetery. And somehow this year was a little tougher emotionally than last year as I stood there by the grave marker early this morning. “Losing” a son (and I hate that word, since I haven’t LOST a son, since I know exactly where he is) hasn’t been an easy experience.
Carol Chodin from WXYZ-TV (channel 7 news, Detroit) came to the house last night for a story on the true meaning of Memorial Day. It was late.
They were on a tight deadline to get the story on the 11:00p news. I had no time to prepare … and was thankful that the house was clean! Carol really set up the opening question well – stating that while many Americans will see this as a three-day weekend for opening a cabin up north or putting the boat in the water and picnicing with family and friends, she then asked, “What is the true meaning of Memorial Day?”
That was the theme still resonating in my mind as I stood there this morning. Yes, I am very (rightfully) proud of a 32-year-old son who was living out his childhood dream of becoming an officer in the United States Marine Corps. I’m proud of the fact that he was a “Marine’s Marine,” and had earned the sincere respect of hundreds of fellow Marines.
Surely no one would deny their fellow Americans the joy and privelege of recreation on a wonderful holiday weekend like Memorial Day. In fact, this afternoon our family will join together to celebrate Jayden Peterson’s fourth birthday. What irony! On the same day that tears flow from my eyes in a mixture of reasonable and righteous pride in a son whose life was snatched away in the sands of Iraq, we celebrate another year of life for my grandson – Justin’s middle child and youngest son.
But has America become so engrossed in self-centered pleasure that we cannot take time on this special holiday – Memorial Day – to remember with thankful hearts the men and women (and their respective families) who gave their lives for the cause of freedom? Are we in danger of forgetting the price that others have paid for the gift of freedom given to each of us?
BTW, do you pray? If so, would you take a moment … right now … to thank God that since the inception of our great nation, there have always been men and women who were willing to lay their lives on the line to protect us and preserve the freedom which we enjoy? If you do not pray, would this not be a great moment to begin … by speaking words of gratitude to the God of Glory – the God upon whom America has called and depended from our beginning?
And while you’re praying, would you also pray for the thousands of widows, widowers and fatherless children? While God may never replace their spouses, daddies, or mommies, He can give them a special grace and strength to face their future – and they will need it.
Thanks for “listening!” Cheers!
Our hearts join with yours in thankfulness and prayer, Dale. We pray for you and for Justin’s family often. Hugs to all of you!
Dale: Karen and I have prayed for you today — I talked about you a little last night on the show…our nation is a better place because of “heroes proved through liberating strife – who more than self, their country loved – and mercy more than life!” — your son is one of those heroes we honor and remember today.
– David Stokes – May 26, 2008
Great piece and tribute to your son. What irony indeed with the celebration of Justin’s service to our country and Jayden’s Birthday. I guess that serves as a good description of bitter/sweet.
Thank you for your friendship through the years. I count you a dear friend.
Dad, thanks for putting the photos in there. I love you and I’m proud of Justin and YOU!