For many Americans, Memorial Day is simply an extra day of rest. But for millions of others, it’s a day of memories and reflections on the friends and family who sacrificed everything in the defense of freedom.
Here are three stories of ordinary Christians—in their own words—who faced extraordinary situations and still celebrate the hope found in Christ in times of crisis and loss.
Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Doug Carver
“For the most part, it’s been a quiet day in Baghdad. Units in other locations report an increase of suicide bombers, anti-Coalition sentiment and discovery of mass graves. Spending most of the afternoon preparing for the Memorial Day service at 1800 hours.”—Journal Entry 1, May 26, 2003
It was Monday, May 26, 2003. I was at Victory Base Complex, just on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq, with the U.S. Army’s V Corps. This Memorial Day would be especially meaningful to our troops as we remembered the 146 Americans killed in action in Iraq to date.
I planned on focusing the Protestant Memorial Day service on a celebration of the lives of our fallen, as we also used the time to celebrate the new life and freedom that God gave to us through Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. I used Proverbs 10:7 as my primary text (“The memory of the righteous is a blessing.”) The Camp Victory Chapel was packed. Even the V Corps commander and his staff took time out of their battle schedule to attend the service.
No sooner had I pronounced the benediction and walked out of the chapel with my commanding general than we received the bad news. Five soldiers were dead from various enemy attacks and accidents. All of them took place within the very hour of our Memorial Day Service.
One of those killed in action was a young 25-year-old from Missouri, PFC Jeremiah D. Smith. His vehicle had hit an improvised explosive device in Bagdad, marking the beginning of the enemy’s concerted effort to hit, maim and kill our troops with this new weapon that most of us had never heard of previously. I’ll never forget Memorial Day 2003. We had paused in a war zone to think about life, to thank the Lord for those who’d paid the full measure of devotion to duty to our country and to celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ. And then, with a prayer and the “amen,” you’re brought right back to the fact that here we are in a combat zone where young men and women are standing in harm’s way, and the war continues.
“The commanding general was visibly shaken and upset from today’s casualties. Job 1:21: ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.’”—Journal Entry 2, May 26, 2003
Chaplain Carver retired from his position as chief of chaplains of the U.S. Army in 2011 and now serves as the North American Mission Board’s executive director of chaplaincy.
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SOURCE: The Baptist Standard