Words of Hope: Memorial Day

In the book of John, we have this definition of love, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lays his life down for his friends.” In this brief definition, we have the image of love involving sacrifice, humility, generosity, and compassion.

World War I, considered the first modern warfare, was one of the most barbaric wars in history. Men fought in trenches, living in the dust, slogging around in the mud day in and day out. My great uncle fought in this war. He was from a small town in Missouri, and he met his best friend at training camp. His best friend hailed from New York, and their friendship got them through many nights on the front, nights fraught with fear and uncertainty. In the trenches, they would laugh together and write long letters home. They would each write to their families about the importance of their friendship, including details of their time together. Their letters often spoke of how their deep bond kept them joyful even in the war’s miserable conditions.

One day, Germans attacked the trench my great uncle and his friend were fighting in. Both scrambled out, frantically running to get through no man’s land, striving to reach the next open trench safely. My great uncle dove into the opening, giddy with exhilaration, having survived no man’s land and the volley of bombs and bullets. He laughed at his good fortune and went to congratulate his friend. He was not beside him. He called and searched frenetically for him. Then a dread crept upon him as he realized his best friend was not in the trench. 

My great uncle braved it, lifting his head above the edge to see if he could find his friend. Suddenly, he spotted him; he had fallen in no man’s land. Great uncle plunged out of the trench, careening to reach his friend without hesitation. He found that his friend was dead, shot down by enemy bullets as he reached the body. He refused to leave his friend’s body in no man’s land. He picked him up and cradled him trying to run back to the trench as quickly as possible. A few feet from safety, he was shot and killed on the battlefield, his friend in his arms.

My great-grandmother was too poor to bring his body stateside. He would have been buried in the unmarked graves with thousands upon thousands of men who lost their lives in World War I. However, my great uncle’s best friend was very wealthy and his family, in honor of their friendship, paid for my great uncle to be brought back and buried.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. – John 15:12-17