Honoring the dead: a son’s proposal for peace

The Rev. Donald Heckman, director for external relations of Religions for Peace International wrote this Memorial Day essay for the Huffington Post:

As a child, in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, I would follow my father, who served in WWII, and the men from the local American Legion post in Tipp City, Ohio, as they visited cemeteries and cleaned, cleared, and marked the graves of fallen soldiers.

Flags, parades, 21-gun salutes, and sobbing hulks of men pausing at the foot of graves fill my childhood memory. Honoring the fallen, I seek out the opportunity each year for my children to experience it with me.

The graves I marked as a boy with brass military placards and crisp flags were often inscribed with Christian crosses or Jewish Stars of David. Those fallen soldiers must have pondered the question, “What is worth dying for?”

Both my country’s call to service and my own Christian faith compel me to ask this same question. For my faith that is so because the central act of Christianity is God’s self-sacrifice through Jesus’ crucifixion. No doubt many who have given their life for country were also influenced by a faith that has such sacrifice at the core of its story, or by the many faiths, like mine, that instruct that there are sometimes greater purposes to serve than oneself.

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