One of my cherished memories of my father was taking him for a visit to the World War II Memorial which is flanked by the Washington Monument to the East and the Lincoln Memorial to the West.
It was a beautiful spring day in 2006 and he was deeply moved by the graceful and solemn design of the Memorial that honors the sacrifice of those we have come to call “the Greatest Generation.” At the age of 17, he did what so many of his generation did, enlisting in the U.S. Navy and dedicating his immediate future to preserve the liberties we still hold today.
I came across a wonderful essay for Memorial Day by a seminary classmate of mine, The Rev. William M. Shand, Rector of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Potomac. His words resonate with me:
Political discussion today is fraught with acrimony. It is not worse than in former years, despite the protestations of some to that effect. When America is at war in various parts of the globe, the temptation is irresistible to those who would rewrite history to deprecate the armed forces of the country. Reasonable people can and do disagree as to the proper aims of military action, and no President has an easy time making decisions as Commander in Chief. But as we come to Memorial Day, it is worth remembering words spoken by General Colin Powell to a group of elite intellectuals in Davos, Switzerland in 2003. If one wishes to find the central motivation for so much of Memorial Day, General Powell, speaking as Secretary of State, put it eloquently:
“We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan  and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.”
Fr. Shand, “Billy” as I know him, captures a sound understanding of selfless service. Those who act upon that understanding, are the reasons why on Memorial Day, we remember them, honor them, and pray for the day “when nation will not rise up against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Until that brighter day, we are required, in spite of all our human limitations, to defend the weak, cherish our liberties, and carry out policies and actions that will best promote the welfare of all. It is fitting and right that we honor those who gave everything for that noble call.