My eyes filled with tears as the Watertown Police marched by. How could I not cry? They had been called to serve recently in ways they could never have predicted, and they had done so courageously and nobly. April 19th was quite a day. But now, here we are, standing in the sunshine on Memorial Day, with the remaining suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings in custody, and all of us still here, still free.
I interviewed twenty people at the Watertown Memorial Day parade, asking them why they had come out for this event. Only one mentioned those who had died in the armed forces, which is the official reason we mark Memorial Day. But everyone said something about community — community they love, relationships close to their heart. My brother is a detective with the police force. My daughter is a Scout. I’m a veteran and want to honor other veterans. I came here from another country and found good neighbors who welcomed me. I grew up here and know everyone in the parade. I love living in a neighborhood where people take care of one another & exchange house keys.
Such a community is exactly what those who serve in the armed forces intend to guard. And on Memorial Day, that’s what matters. I didn’t ask anyone at the parade for their view on the “war on terror” or their position on using drones in Pakistan or their feelings about US-Israeli relations. Today we give thanks for the people we hold dearest and the community that makes a space for us and upholds us day to day, and we celebrate those who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf.
Here’s the prayer we offered yesterday at Good Shepherd, in honor of the occasion. It is excerpted from a prayer by my friend and colleague, the Rev. Jennifer Phillips.
We remember all those who have given faithful service to our country, and especially those who have given their lives on our behalf; we pray you, God:
hold in your perfect light and love those who laid down their lives generously in military service; keep vigil with those who bear the outward or inward wounds of war; give your mercy to those who carry burdens of conscience or troubled memory; gather into your everlasting arms those who may die on this day;
lift up all those who grieve for loved ones who died in the armed services and for those who are missing in action; lend strength to the families who bravely watch and wait; grant wisdom, courage, and restraint to those who bear authority under the pressure of peril;and grant that we may never forget the many whose brave, sacrificial, and faithful service built up the heritage of liberty we enjoy.
We pray in your most Holy Name. Amen.