Last month, while attending the spring conference of The Apostolic Churches of the Lord Jesus Christ, we enjoyed two meals at a Bob Evans restaurant in Boardman, Ohio.

As usual, the meals were excellent, but while we were waiting for our breakfast to be served late Saturday morning, something very unusual and heartwarming happened.

Several announcements, including a welcome to the restaurant and a weather report for the day, were given over the loud speaker. Then the man making the announcements invited everyone in the restaurant to stand, turn toward the front of the store where a large American flag was hanging. He also invited everyone to join him in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

From where we were seated, we had a good view of the entire restaurant, and I did not see one person remain in their seat. There were young and old, black and white, families, couples and individuals in the restaurant at that time. It would be hard to describe how we felt as all those voices joined in unison showing honor to our country, the United States of America.

For just the few moments that it took to repeat that pledge that we learned as children, that’s exactly what we all were – united. And it was nice, really nice. People were smiling, sharing little greetings or comments and not noticing skin color, age or any of the other things that so often separate people. Other than Rex, I didn’t know anyone else in the restaurant, and I don’t think he knew anyone other than me. We were only visitors in that city, as perhaps many of the others in that restaurant were as well. But for just those few moments, we became a part of that united group of Americans who were not ashamed to stand up and salute their flag.

As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, we might remember that is what the men and women whose memory we honor gave their lives for – so that we can be free while at the same time being united.

We are a blessed nation, and the world can see it even when we can not. If the United States of America was not such a blessed nation, why would so many people be doing everything they can, even illegally, to come to this country and be a part of it?

I never served in the military. As clumsy as I have always been, I probably wouldn’t have made it through boot camp. But many of the members of my family – my dad, brothers-in-law, nephews, uncles, cousins – have served; some still are on active duty. I don’t think any of them did it for the paycheck; military service is not one of the country’s greatest career choices if you are looking for a big paycheck.

So there must have been another reason they were willing to put their lives on the line, willing to leave family and friends while knowing they might never come back. For most, it was a sincere desire to serve, and even more than that, to fight for the freedoms that we as a nation have enjoyed since 1776. Since the Revolutionary War was fought, more than 1.1 million Americans – men and women, some very young and some not so young – have given their lives to protect those freedoms each one of us treasures.

Not all of us can put on a uniform and serve in our chosen branch of the military. But we certainly can show respect to and honor those who are out there fighting. Some will come home one day; others may not.

Memorial Day is a day to remember, not with anger against those wars we may not support, but with pride in the men and women who are willing to risk all that they have so that we can keep all that we have.

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Thought for the week — What I can do for my country, I am willing to do. (Christopher Gadsden)

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