Often confused with Veterans Day, Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving as members of America’s military forces; Veterans Day honors the service of the living.
One of the newest – and most striking – tributes to the fallen is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the National Mall, in Washington D.C. There, the names of 58,315 men and women who were either KIA (killed in action) or MIA (missing). There are no plots or tombs there; only names. Visiting the two-acre site is both sobering and thoughtful; it brings home the reality of humanity at the core of conflicts between countries and ideologies…
Included among those names are the 257 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Since the Civil War, 3515 brave warriors have been awarded that recognition. It is the highest decoration, recognizing the distinguished men and women whose acts of valor earned that designation. War brings out the worst – and, the best – of character: the same field of battle exposes both cowards and heroes.
The war of longest duration – in American history – is the war in Afghanistan, starting in October of 2001 and declared “over” in December of 2014 (though American casualties continue). Wars that stretch across time seem to lose urgency for those not directly involved in the fighting; that indifference disappears on the front lines.
There’s a war that never makes headlines in the 21st Century, but it is the reality behind the headlines most days: it’s the Great War. Launched as a rebellion in Heaven (date not recorded), the front line moved to earth, with the first battle in the Garden of Eden. From then to now, most people have been casualties, but, in every generation, a small percentage have answered the call to actively engage against the evil enemy, wearing the uniform of faith and carrying the flag of the Kingdom.
God has constructed a virtual memorial wall for the men and women whose service earned eternal recognition. His description of that site is captured in Hebrews 11; this is the plaque at the entrance that frames the monument: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (vs. 6)
The American Medal of Honor measures valor; the Kingdom Medal of Honor measures faith. Wars are usually fought for land or power; the War in Heaven – brought to Earth – is fought for souls and righteousness. Victory in natural conflicts usually requires troop strength and superior war technology; victory in supernatural conflict requires divine power and human obedience.
Check ‘em out, in Hebrews 11: Abel. Enoch. Noah. Abraham. Sarah. Issac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. Joshua. Rahab. Gideon. Barak. Samson. Jephthah. David. Daniel. Jeremiah. Elijah. Elisha. Zechariah. Isaiah. Each name evokes an amazing story of triumph in the face of evil opposition.
It’s that obedience factor that sets them apart; this is his description of the valiant whose names are inscribed: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (vs. 13-16)
It’s a promise: God’s Medal of Honor ceremony will be held just after the final victory in the Great War. The plan: to reward his brave warriors – personally – for what they’ve done, in sacrificial service to his Kingdom. His commitment to that moment has inspired feats of faith, for generations.
Will you be recognized for your service, on that amazing day?