With Memorial Day upon us, it’s natural and appropriate to remember those we know — or perhaps have only read or heard stories about – for the ultimate sacrifice they gave in serving their country.
For those who have survived to return home to friends and families, readjustment can be difficult. So, too, can be the strain for those families when soldiers are deployed particularly on multiple tours of duty.
There are countless numbers of local support groups and organizations which reach out to troops and their families. If you are involved in such an organization, please feel free to respond to this blog and share your stories and information.
One well-established organization which provides Christian-based support and materials to families in the service is Military Ministry, which is a division of Campus Crusade for Christ.
The ministry is based in Newport News, Va., at the heart of the Atlantic fleet and home to the nation’s largest concentration of military personnel.
Mike McCandless, Military Ministry’s chief development officer, said that applying Christian principles to such weighty issues as family strain during deployments, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and combat trauma is part and parcel of their services. The need for these services has been magnified by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which are closing in on a decade in length.
“Shortly after our current executive director (Army Maj. Gen. Bob Dees (Ret.)) came on board we reached out to leaders and in the different branches of the military and said, ‘What do you need?’,” McCandless said. “What we heard was programs to address repeated deployments before and the stress on families before, during and after deployments.”
To help in this regard the organization sponsors a Bridges to Healing Ministry aimed at churches and small groups to partner with military families and provided the with Scripturally-based support.
“We want to help with finding faith, maintaining faith and renewing faith,” McCandeless explained. “We have counseling service projects to work which lay leaders or pastoral counselors can use to help personnel who have suffered this trauma to give them help with recovery.”
The ministry also works with partner organizations to distribute Bibles in the field, including a Rapid Deployment Kit which includes a pocket-sized New Testament, Proverbs and a 90-day devotional. It also relies on 400 part-time and full-time staffers across the country who work with military families and on college campuses with ROTC trainees.
McCandless said, “One of the outcomes of this is out part of the Great Commission that is not really evident here on site as it is with the people we have working and partnering with us here and around the world. … Any opportunity to actively care for or care about folks in foxholes no matter where they may be is more important to them than most of us would know.”
Below is the message from Maj. Gen. Dees to military families:
No doubt you have received many appropriate Memorial Day messages. It is certainly fitting and proper that we honor those in our nation for their ultimate sacrifices, the ultimate cost of Freedom, which we know is not free. We are so grateful for their service, their sacrifice, their love for God, nation, and fellow man. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). The many, the millions, we honor today have essentially “taken our bullets,” just the way the Lord Jesus has taken the bullet for each of us.
On Memorial Day, my mind turns to Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg. Lincoln appropriately honored fallen warriors:
“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
But Lincoln also challenged and inspired a nation to honor those who remain; those who continue to fight the good fight; those who stand on the edge of evil holding back darkness from the light of this world:
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
Hence today, let each of us “be dedicated to the unfinished work.” Let us determine how we can “take increased devotion” to secure the blessings of freedom for generations to come. Let us determine how to “move a nation to care.”
Our troops and their families continue to fight a long, persistent, deadly combination of global and local threats. They are tired; many are discouraged; far too many are taking their own lives; far too many military families are unraveling. In the ultimate sense, they need “FAITH IN THE FOXHOLE” AND “HOPE ON THE HOMEFRONT.” None of us can provide everything they need, but all of us can provide something they need.
A recent video available on our website (www.militaryministry.org/memorialday) shows such a couple, such a church, that choose to make a huge difference in the lives of “the military in their midst.”
On this Memorial Day, we do honor our nation’s Fallen Warriors, and we seek likewise to honor, affirm, love, and support the troops and families of today who continue to “take our bullets.” May each of us seek to determine what “increased devotion” to the sons and daughters of America in uniform means in our own lives, churches, and communities.
May you and your family have a Blessed Memorial Day as you “think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)