The Life-Charged Life

Memorial Weekend Reaches Beyond the Uniform

Remembering those who sacrificed so much...

Sometimes life – and most especially the life-charged life – isn’t even remotely possible unless, first, some serious sacrifices have been made by people with the courage to give away their future so that we can enjoy ours.

That’s a startling concept. And it’s a hard one for an avowed pacifist such as myself to wrap my mind around.

It’s doubly difficult when I go on to say that I honestly don’t believe that war-mongering is ever necessary or even vaguely warranted as an appropriate course of action. But, at the same time, I have to acknowledge that military intervention isn’t always war-mongering; sometimes military action really is a move to secure stability and peace.

That said, I’m convinced that – disturbingly often – even “The Good Guys” fall into the trap of confusing “national self-interest” with loftier goals. “Protecting our way of life” doesn’t always mean advancing or protecting unalienable rights – such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Too often, what we really mean is, “Doing whatever it takes to take what we want, and to do what whatever we like.”

At least when England’s “East India Trading Company” (1600 – 1874) put troops in the field and ruled a continent, nobody tried to pretend the guys with weapons they were anything other than the strong-arm division of a for-profit corporation. Today the lines of control are more nuanced and significantly less easy to pin down.

The scene of Pickett's Charge - Gettysburg 1863

Memorial Day. So, what I want us to remember with particular care this Memorial Weekend is not a carte blanche “rah, rah, rah!” endorsement of all things military… but a humble and well thought out gratitude for the sacrifices so many brave men and women have made for the sake of freedom.

U.S. forces wore the same uniform when our government practiced genocide against Native Americans as when they stood for freedom against Cornwallis at Yorktown. On the one hand we have Normandy, The Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of the concentration camps and the rescue of hostages held by pirates… And, on the other, situations such as My Lai and Abu Ghraib.

I think it’s important that we never let the uniform – or even the flag – become unquestionably interchangeable with the spirit of what continues to make this nation great. And I think it’s incumbent on citizens – always – to ask hard questions regarding why we go anywhere with weapons, why we stay when the answers begin to change, and if we really are doing what we said we were when the action began…?


This Memorial Weekend I’m thankful for everyone who has sacrificed so much for our freedom and liberty. And I’m especially grateful to know so many amazing people of faith and integrity who not only wear a uniform (or work with the military as civilians), but who serve first as lovers of freedom, and who respect the rights of all people regardless of their nationality, or race, or religion.

I hate war, and I believe we need to do much less of it. But I’m thankful for those who serve, and most especially when their mission advances freedom for all people in all places.

Gratefully – DEREK

  • How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, Who proclaim peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things, Who proclaim salvation… (Isaiah 52:7)

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