Last Thursday, I stood with family members as my father-in-law, Brent Roose was interred at Arlington National Cemetery just outside of Washington, DC.

If you’ve ever visited the final resting place of our nation’s bravest warriors, you know that words cannot capture what it’s like when your eyes sweep across the vast landscape of beauty and sacrifice. Tens of thousands of uniform, white tombstones stand sentry as individual memorials over the bodies of our bravest, most valiant warriors. Without a doubt, those rolling hills stretch across acres of hallowed ground. 

 

This is the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. My sister works on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House so I commuted into downtown DC with her and I took metro train to the cemetery in about 15 minutes.

 

While Brent passed away suddenly on July 19, 2018, we had a funeral in his hometown. However, we’ve known for decades that he would be buried at Arlington after his valor displayed while in combat during Vietnam. However, it takes 6-8 months after death for a burial service at Arlington due to high numbers of veterans passing away these days.  Brent’s service took place on May 16 and his ceremony was one of over 20 on that day.

I appreciated the tender care and respect that the army staff demonstrated in every aspect of the ceremony. From the soldiers who escorted my father-in-laws remains, to the army chaplain who spoke about Brent’s life and service, to the breathtaking beauty of hearing the rifle salute and taps played in Brent’s honor. Tears streamed down as our hearts soared with pride.

 

It was a beautiful, solemn day for my father-in-law’s burial service.

 

I’ve been to Arlington many times before, as a kid and as an adult. As the mother of a military officer currently on deployment in the Middle East, Arlington felt a little more personal to me this time.  I don’t just see the tombstones, but I also see the shadows of mothers and fathers sitting in chairs with their palms up to receive the flag that draped the casket of their loved one. I see families huddled together around tombstones or standing solemn during a gun salute, their faces a mixture of grief and pride.  

My father-in-law never said much about his tour in Vietnam. What he left unsaid spoke volumes. But he was proud of his service. Brent had a tremendous impact on my oldest daughter choosing to attend the United States Military Academy. He was bursting with pride her junior year when she branched to Air Defense, which was a close cousin to the branch where he served in Field Artillery. And there wasn’t a dry eye in our family when Brent pinned Kate’s 2nd Lieutenant bar on during her commissioning ceremony on graduation day.

 

This soldier is carrying the US flag that would be presented to my brother-in-law who was representing the Roose family.

 

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us. This year, the memories of what I’ve seen and felt the past few days will be fresh on my heart. The understanding that one person’s sacrifice can bring freedom to countless others is an explanation for why the United States is the home of the free and the land of the brave, but this concept is an echo of the gospel that Jesus’ sacrifice brings us freedom. 

I invite you to join me in considering the gift of freedom – not just the price paid for it, but also the need to never take it for granted or the importance of championing freedom for all.

On this Memorial Day weekend, perhaps you can…

  • Visit family members who’ve served, whether they are living or are in a cemetery.
  • If they are living, ask them to share their most memorable moments. Just listen to their stories of how they served to protect your freedom – even if they were stateside filling out paperwork in an air-conditioned office. Every sacrifice matters! 
  • If they’ve passed away, take a moment to plant a flag and stand in silence to honor them.  
  • Look around your communities and pay attention to where people are not experiencing the kind of freedom that you enjoy.
  • There are a lot of people who do not feel the same kind of freedom that you may feel. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share their stories so that you can learn more.

Most importantly…reflect on what Jesus did for your freedom.  He didn’t just die for you to go to heaven, but His death and resurrection brings freedom to your life every single day! Walk in freedom, my friends. Throw off the bondage of unforgiveness, bitterness, scarcity, pride, and selfishness. Freedom came at great cost to Christ for you, so honor Him by living in freedom today.