Memorial Stones

 

These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever. – Joshua 4:7 (NIV)

Sept. 11, 2001, dawned clear and bright. Fall was in the air—in the coolness of the misty morning, in the hints of red, yellow and orange beginning to splash the hillsides, in the honking of geese winging overhead. America shut off the alarm clock, rolled out of bed, opened the curtains and let in the day. With coffee in hand, we set off to work.

By 9 a.m. our world had profoundly, irreversibly changed. By noon we’d gone from disbelief to numbing shock. By evening we vowed, “We will not forget!”

And we haven’t. One of the most tragic days in American history was also one of our finest. We looked in the mirror on that watershed day and said, “We are America.” And then we showed the world what makes America the greatest nation on earth.

America is a land of opportunity. We still open our arms to the tired, poor, huddling masses yearning to breathe free. To those homeless, tempest-tossed souls the lamp is still lifted beside the golden door. In every community modern day immigrants practice medicine, serve cultural cuisine, sell cars. Some are so desperate they sneak in. Don’t let anyone fool you. Opportunities abound in the home of the brave. But that isn’t what makes America great.

America is a land of prosperity. We have houses for our cars. We have closets jam-packed with clothes we grew out of or that we forgot we owned. We have winter clothes and summer clothes. We have footwear for every occasion. We have everyday dishes and good dishes. We have bank accounts, credit cards, investments, retirement plans. We have boats and swimming pools and RVs and motorcycles and four-wheelers and garages so full of stuff that we don’t have room for the car. We eat three square meals a day and then some. Diet and exercise businesses are booming. But our material wealth isn’t what makes America great.

America is the land of the free. We work and still have time to play. We race cars and horses and the clock. We are free to worship and work where we choose. We are free from want and, for the most part, from fear. We have homeless shelters and Homeland Security. We have soup kitchens and supersonic jets. We have policemen, firemen, EMTs, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the military protecting and aiding us. We can be whatever we want to be, go where we want to go. We can choose who, what, when, where, and how. We have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But freedom isn’t what makes America great.

What, then, makes America great?

Its generous heart, resilient spirit and can-do attitude. The Spirit of America born on the shores of Plymouth Rock nearly four centuries ago was found on Sept. 11, 2001, in the rubble that was the World Trade Center and in the wreckage of a plane that slammed into a Pennsylvania field.

Plymouth+Rock+%284%29.jpg (390×260)

On a memorial stone, those stalwart Pilgrims inscribed: “This spot marks the final resting place of the Pilgrims of the Mayflower. In weariness and hunger and in cold, fighting the wilderness and burying their dead in common graves that the Indians should not know how many had perished, they here laid the foundations of a state for which all men for countless ages should have liberty to worship God in their own way. All ye who pass by and see this stone, remember, and dedicate yourselves anew to the resolution that you will not rest until this lofty ideal shall have been realized throughout the earth.”

We will not forget Sept. 11, 2001. We will not forget that for a moment evil prevailed. We will not forget how, by the grace of God, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work, fighting that evil with goodness. We will not forget who and what we are. Let our memorial stones reflect the spirit of America.

God, bless America, land that I love. Amen.

Read and reflect on Joshua 4:1–9, 20–24.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

People gather around stones that are part of a new 9/11 Memorial Glade on May 30 on the grounds of the National September Memorial and Museum after the Glade's dedication ceremony in New York. Set in a glade of trees during the spring 2019, the granite slabs recognize an initially unseen toll of the 2001 terror attacks: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to toxins unleashed in the wreckage.

People gather around stones that are part of a new 9/11 Memorial Glade on May 30 on the grounds of the National September Memorial and Museum after the Glade’s dedication ceremony in New York. Set in a glade of trees during the spring 2019, the granite slabs recognize an initially unseen toll of the 2001 terror attacks: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to toxins unleashed in the wreckage. (AP file photo)

Daddy and the Poppies

 Image by Roman Grac from Pixabay

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13 NIV

One of the earliest memories I have is of my father “buying” me a poppy from a man in a military uniform outside our church on a Sunday morning. As I grew older, I came to understand when Dad put money in the can, he was donating to a local veterans’ organization.

A World War II veteran of the US Army, my father didn’t talk about his service. He’d been defending the continental United States on the godforsaken island of Attu when he was wounded. Shrapnel in his spine left him recuperating in a VA hospital for a year.

How I wish I would have asked more questions! But I was young with my own life ahead of me, and had little, if any, interest in something that didn’t directly affect me.

Now I regret that selfish attitude. I realize my roots are as important as my wings. I have plenty of questions now. Where was he stationed? What was his Army job? I know he’d attained the rank of sergeant but little else. I may never know this side of eternity. My parents, and that generation of relatives who could have given me answers, are all gone now.

I wrote to the Veteran’s Administration for my dad’s service records, but unfortunately a fire destroyed them. I researched “Attu” online and learned that had the Japanese won that historic battle on the westernmost Aleutian island, we may well have fought World War II on continental American soil. I sent for the DVD of the PBS documentary, Red, White, Black, and Blue, “a wrenching look at a forgotten battle.”

But I’d rather have the story from my father’s point of view. It would mean so much more to me.

So every year, in memory of my father, I “buy” a poppy and entwine it on my purse. When I had my grandchildren with me, I’d get one for them, too.

“My daddy—your great-grandfather—always got me a poppy,” I’d say. “Do you know where the idea for poppies came from?”

Then I tell them about the poem written by Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915, during World War I: “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row.”

I tell them about Moina Michael, who, in response to McCrae’s poem, went out and bought a bouquet of poppies and distributed them, asking that they be worn in tribute to the fallen. Donations were given to servicemen in need.

If I still have their attention—and I make sure I do—I recite the verse she penned:

“We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a luster to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead in Flanders Field.”

“And today,” I say, concluding the brief history lesson, “red poppies are made by disabled veterans in hospitals, with the donations going to support a variety of veterans’ organizations.”

And then I give them each a poppy.

Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. –Proverbs 3:3 

Father, let the poppy also remind us of the sacrifice Your Son made for our eternal freedom. Amen.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.