Rick Steingard, King of Kings Church, Midway
In 20 years of living in the West Boundary, I have normally gone to the Remembrance Day ceremony in the Kettle Valley near the Ingram Bridge. Each year, as part of the ceremony, the more than 50 names on the cenotaph are read. While I recognize some of the last names of long time families of the area, I don’t know any of the people read.
There is a wreath laid by one family each year in remembrance of an uncle that died. For them, the names have much more personal meaning. For 95-year-old Paul Lautard, who faithfully leads the service and fought in World War Two, some of those names would have been friends. There is a connection for him.
There has been a show on Knowledge Network called “Finding the Fallen,” where archeologists, historians and forensic experts dig in the trenches of World War One. The goal is to find and identify unknown soldiers from both sides and finally lay them to rest. Using clothing, personal effects, ammunition and army issue equipment, they piece together the identity, and research who the person was. Historical records, letters, pictures are discovered, and then a connection is made with living relatives where the evidence is presented. All of a sudden, that name takes on more personal meaning. The name is more than just a name; it represents a grandfather, a great uncle. That abstract name is a person.
In John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields,” the second verse reads: “We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.”
The 50 names on the cenotaph represent real people who loved, were loved, had aspirations and plans, but whose lives were cut short. These are not fictional characters in some novel, but real people.
Behind each name there are a whole lot of life stories, dreams and family connections. These are the ones who paid the ultimate price. They also left behind mothers and fathers, wives, fiancés, brothers and sisters, children. Those left behind had to continue life with a hole in the family, and in their hearts.
While I may never understand the intricate life stories of the fallen, God does. To him, there is never an “unknown soldier.” He knows them all, and knows their complete story. God says, “I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Is 49:15b-16a). Similarly, Jesus told us that the Father cares for us, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt 10:16). We are all completely known by God.
To those who paid the price of their lives, we owe thanks. To those that lived on without their loved ones, we also owe thanks.
May we pray today for the safety of our troops at home and abroad, that they will always come back home to their loved ones.