I wrote this blog prior to the recent attacks in Paris. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost a family member or friend, as well as with all those who were affected by the events this week. We must remember. Not so we can hold on to hate and division, but so we can live in love, forgiveness, and unity.
I recently visited the National D-Day Memorial for the USA. It’s not in a big tourist city like New York or Washington DC. It’s in the small, unassuming town called Bedford in the state of Virginia. Why Bedford? Bedford (population 3,200 in 1944) lost 19 sons on the beaches of France that 6th of June 1944.
“Proportionally this community suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses. Recognizing Bedford as emblematic of all communities, large and small, whose citizen-soldiers served on D-Day, Congress warranted the establishment of the National D-Day Memorial here.” (www.dday.org).
And just like Bedford, you wouldn’t know this memorial was there, unless you were looking for it. Tucked up on a hillside next to an elementary school, you only see the memorial as you drive the road up to it. Which is a feat in itself, because the memorial is huge. The memorial is three layers, designed specifically to remind us of the three layers to D-Day itself – preparation, action, and living in victory. While people tend to focus on the preparation and the day itself, the designers of this memorial felt that how we live in response to all of that was equally important.
An English garden represents the preparation stage, as much of the planning and training occurred in England.
The second stage is a concrete “beach”. Surrounding the “beach” in stage two, there are two walls of remembrance. One for the American soldiers that died, and one for the soldiers from the Allied nations.
At the top, in the victory stage, there are flags from each Allied nation. Each having a plaque explaining each nation’s involvement on D-Day.
As I walked around the monument, two things struck me. One, the care and planning that went into every little detail to ensure that my generation and future generations never forget what happened on the beaches of Normandy that day in 1944. Two, one little town can have a lasting impact. Volunteers from the local community are the tour guides and run the gift shop. Children from the local school help keep the war garden growing vegetables.
I prefer peace. Of course I do. “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) – I get that. I truly do. This blog isn’t a call to wage war. The last thing anyone who lived through D-Day would want is to glamourise war. I am asking myself though – How do I live in response to the knowledge of what happened that day? Live appreciatively? Take care of veterans and those currently serving? Do I use my freedom to enable others to live free? What would that look like today?
As usual, because I’m a Christian, I look to the Bible and Jesus for my example. If you think of the Hebrew scriptures in the Bible as the preparation stage, preparing the world for the arrival of the redeeming works of God through Jesus. Then the gospels, the good news stories of Jesus, become the day of battle. Jesus defeats sin and death and makes it possible for us to move forward as God’s people, to live in freedom. Then Acts and the letters become the first part of the stage we are in now – victory. How do we live in response to the freedom Christ won for us on the cross?
I don’t write this to guilt you. If you feel guilt, take that to God and ask God to help you figure out where that guilt is coming from.
This blog is a call to live free. Free of guilt. Free of shame. With a heart full of thanks. Because that is the life Jesus won for us.
And as for D-Day…
At the age of 90, Bernard Jordan passed away on 6/1/15. He was the World War Two veteran who snuck out of his care home to travel to the D-Day remembrance services in France last June. He traveled to remember his friends on the 75th anniversary. As he traveled, he was amazed at how people treated the veterans like him, waving at the boat as it approached the harbour. The ship’s liaison officer reports that he kept saying, “All this for us.” (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-27746379)
Mr Jordan and all his friends, thank you. Thank you to all veterans and currently serving men and women.
They called the D-Day military operation “Overlord”. May our prayer be that one day war is truly over, Lord. Until then, pray for those who will defend the weak, who will stand. Pray we take care of them and their families.
More information about the D-Day Memorial can be found at http://www.dday.org . Their Education Centre has a lot of resources for schools.