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Reflections on Memorial Day

May 28, 2022

A version of this story originally appeared in a newsletter from Eagle Commission and was written by Mark Penfold, Eagle Commission endorser. Find more information about Eagle Commission on their website here.

I am the son of a Korean War combat veteran and the son-in-law of a World War II combat veteran. My early years were shaped by men (mostly) who had served in those two conflicts — public school teachers, Sunday School teachers, and others. I remember a time when Memorial Day was not a long holiday weekend but a special day of the week. Somber parades mostly with veteran’s groups marked that day. Then our nation decided to make it a long weekend and the emphasis of the day seemed to have gotten lost for many. Sadly, for the millions of Vietnam veterans, their losses and sacrifices were forgotten except by those who survived them — their families and their battle buddies.

Most of my almost 30 years of military service were post 9/11. As a chaplain, I lost friends and unit members in combat. I had the difficult task of informing parents and spouses that their soldier was killed in action (KIA). I have attended memorial ceremonies in Iraq and in the US where the grief was palpable. I have had the honor and privilege of conducting memorial ceremonies that I prayed would bring the hope of the Gospel to those in attendance.

Even though I’ve been retired more than five years now, my Memorial Days now are quiet ones. I remember. I grieve a bit. I pray. I will be always thankful for their sacrifices. And I will be grateful to the Lord for the immense privilege of having served as an Army chaplain.

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