Memorial Day and the Battle Hymn


Like many families in the U.S., my family spent this past Memorial Day by inviting friends over, grilling, and enjoying the freedoms that our men and women in uniform secured for us.

My children posted a small flag in our garden to honor the brave souls who sacrificed their lives for this nation. When I see a service member, I marvel at how they make such a selfless decision, and often ask myself, how does one willingly leave their home and family to serve a nation?

I suppose one answer to this question is that many serve because of the compensation package the military receives like a salary, tuition for college, and health coverage. More often, however, many serve simply because they love this country. And this fact fills me with awe for our service men and women.

But what is this “love for country” which compels so many to serve? Is it the citizenry? Perhaps not, for few would sacrifice their families for strangers. Is it the government? I think not! For, with each administration and political news cycle we seem to see more and more things with which to be disenchanted with our government.

Rather than mere citizens, or a government, I believe this love for country refers to an inner recognition that, though it is not perfect, America is honorable and beautiful, in her natural landscapes and her ideals — both of which evidences that our country is blessed and set apart from all others.

This Memorial Day, I listened to “The Battle Hymn of The Republic” and saw pictures of our troops — representing the best military force on earth — I felt a sense of pride. Just consider the following words and music, for I think it is hard to find such inspiring and sacrificial words written these days:

The Battle Hymn of The Republic

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord.

He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored.

He has loosed the fateful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword.

His truth is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies
Christ was born across the sea

With a glory in his bosom
That transfigures you and me.

As he died to make men holy
Let us live to make men free

While God is marching on.

(Chorus) Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
Our God is marching on.

The pride I feel comes not from anything that I have done, but from a sense of gratitude to God that I was born in this great and powerful nation with service men and women “who live to make [people] free.” I am so thankful that throughout her history, America has acknowledged and has been inspired by God to accomplish great things for the betterment of humanity.

Sadly, I have no doubt that there are those from without and within our borders that would desire to see us not as strong and as powerful as we are. But, again, I am profoundly thankful for our men and women in uniform for heeding the call and protecting our country.

I pray that they — and all of us — will always consider America a nation worth defending and sacrificing for, despite incessant news coverage suggesting reasons to do otherwise.

I know many of you prayed for our soldiers as I did this Memorial Day. May God give them wisdom, strength, courage, and hope, and may God richly bless them and their families.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]