This post was originally published on Memorial Day 2015:
My wife and I went to Mass on Memorial Day and our priest told a story in his homily about a man he knew that grew up without parents. The man's name was Matt. Matt led a lonely life and it seemed that everything he did or tried was met with a closed door. He joined the military and eventually was deployed into active service in Afghanistan. On return home to the US while on leave, he seemed bitter and distant to the priest and others who knew him. His demeanor had changed now that he had been exposed to the brutality of war. Upon his return to Afghanistan for another tour of duty, he fought bravely for his country, but this time he was killed by enemy fire and returned home to the US again, but this time he returned in a flag draped coffin. He was given a proper funeral Mass and burial service, and this time he went through an open door, a door which led to heaven. At this point the priest got choked up and everyone could see that he was very moved by this story. The story of a person he knew personally, who had fought and died for his freedom as an American. A person who was not loved by many people on this earth, but was loved tremendously by God. We often don't think of the thousands of people, real people, real human beings, who lost their lives for this country, when we think of Memorial Day. We tend to think of the patriotism and the flags, but we quickly turn to thoughts of summer time, BBQ's and time off from our jobs to be with our families and enjoy a day off. When you think about people who were touched by a soldier who gave his life, it gets personal. We live in a great country because of people like Matt.