If you drive through many area communities, you will see banners honoring members of the armed forces who have been dubbed “hometown heroes” as a result of their service to their country.
They include men and women from all branches of the military and range anywhere from Civil War veterans to those who served in America’s 21st century conflicts in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The banners are in place in time for Memorial Day, the holiday set aside to honor those who died while serving in the United States military. Sadly, more than a few of smiling soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in their dress uniforms never returned from the war they fought. In fact, the picture on the banner might be the last photo their descendants have of them.
Of course, Memorial Day is also an occasion when we remember family members and friends, veterans and non-veterans who are no longer with us. Many of the veterans on the banners survived the war to live long and productive lives as members of our communities. Sadly, they also have joined the ranks of their departed comrades.
While the photos and information offer us a tiny glimpse into the lives of these people, the bigger message is one of sacrifice. Many of them did not serve in combat or even overseas. Most did not suffer physical wounds, but all them gave up something to serve their country.
Time with spouse, children, parents and friends was lost; never to be replaced. Some were lived the rest of their lives with deep emotional scars as a result of what they had seen and endured. Some paid the ultimate sacrifice.
As we remember all those veterans who made such sacrifices for us, we also recall those such as parents and others who made countless sacrifices of a different kind.
Memorial Day is also a day to remember the ultimate sacrifice — the one Christ made on the cross. It is because of that sacrifice, we can hope one day to see those “heroes” we remember.
Sacrifice is an act of love.