As a retired Army chaplain, I had the honor of serving alongside amazing soldiers who inspired me daily to be better than yesterday. This weekend, as Memorial Day approaches, it is heart-wrenching to consider the fallen. They are gone from this world, and their sacrifice is often forgotten too soon.
Although those who gave the ultimate sacrifice will be honored Monday, we as a nation seem more and more unwilling to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the living who still carry visible and invisible wounds from the battlefield.
An unthinkable average of 22 veterans commit suicide every day in this country. Clearly, the wars we fight continue to take our brave warriors years later.
For the uninitiated, it is difficult to explain the vacuum of night when immersed in combat. You are desperately isolated from the free world you love. You have freely given up the most basic of freedoms to ensure the people at home will never know that feeling.
On those dark nights in combat, you may wonder about your own mortality.
You may briefly look up at incredible stars that shine brighter because of the complete darkness around you. If you dare look up through your night-vision goggles, you witness the expanse of the universe. You may even see a shooting star. Then you realize there are people very close by who want to kill you. Your mind focuses on staying sharp and protecting your fellow soldiers.
On those dark nights in combat, you may wonder about your own mortality. But if you can reach down into your cargo pocket and touch an audio or written Bible, you’re reminded that Jesus won’t leave you. Perhaps people back home cared enough about you to send God’s Word to reassure and comfort you. And the darkness loses its power, because you don’t have to be in the light to know He is always there and dawn will soon break.
Please join me in remembering and honoring the sacrifice of those who have given their life in defense of our great nation on this Memorial Day. And take a moment to reflect on those brave souls who are still hurting, broken and seeking the peace that continues to elude them.
Matt Cassady is the Director of Chaplaincy Ministries for the Military BibleStick, a digital audio player loaded with the New Testament and specially selected Psalms. Cassady, who served two tours in Afghanistan, suffered wounds to his legs and hips from an explosion during a Taliban ambush in 2005. A Purple Heart recipient, he retired as a major in 2015.