Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Soldiers and Cemeteries

Last year I visited the World War I battlefield in Gallipoli, Turkey. Here on this rugged coast, young troops from Australia and New Zealand were sent into a bloody, confused battle. Having been landed on the wrong beach, without cover or support, and exposed to withering fire from the Turkish defenders, the green Anzacs showed their mettle and proved to be brave and determined soldiers.

Across the battlefield are several cemeteries where the fallen from both sides now rest. I noticed this grave marker among the many there. Young G. R. Seager, just 17 years old, lies here thousands of miles from his home, his native land. My first thought was, "What a waste, what a terrible waste of a young man's life. How sad."

But on this Memorial Day I have a different perspective. Now I say, "What a sacrifice, what a stirring sacrifice from this young man, from his family, for his country." You see, no matter how senseless the war or how incompetent the command or how suicidal the mission, the sanctity of a soldier's sacrifice is undimmed, undiminished.

So today we honor their sacrifice wherever they have fallen, every mother's son who lies far from home. And we pray and plead for peace, for an end to senseless bloodshed and the tragic waste of war.

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