Honoring Our Son: Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day at University United Methodist Church
For many years, University United Methodist Church has combined a recognition of Armed Services Day (third Saturday in May, when we honor those serving in the US military) and Memorial Day (last Monday in May, when we honor those who have given their lives in wartime). The congregation and members of the choir and orchestra outfit themselves in uniform or other patriotic regalia—a sea of red, white, and blue. The University Chancel Choir sings songs such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and the Orchestra plays a medley of the service songs (“Anchors Aweigh” etc.). The pastors ask those who serve (or have served) in that branch, and their loved ones, to stand during the appropriate service song. It’s always amazing to see how many people do. The booming percussion and brass sections always get the crowd going.
Last year, less than a week had passed since the day when we dropped off Sean for boot camp. We had no idea when we would receive our first letter or talk to him; we knew we wouldn’t see him for three months. Getting through the Marine section of “Armed Forces Salute” was pretty tough. (And the piccolo is important, so I couldn’t just lay out!)
This year, with our Marine based in Okinawa, we proudly stood (and played) during the Marine song. Even though he’s 7,500 miles (and 14 hours time difference) away, now that he’s settled and one year into his Marine career, we proudly wore our Marine Parent shirts to worship. (That’s us pictured with the altar flowers we presented in honor of him and all those who serve.)
At the same time, other pieces proved difficult this year. I am blessed that I do not have to face (at least right now) a deployment in Afghanistan. But I’m not naïve. I know what military service means and could mean. I try not to think about why he’s getting anthrax and smallpox shots, or why he has to qualify on rifle every year, or why he has a gas mask in his barracks room. To dwell on these things is to invite a nervous breakdown. My mom always said, “Don’t borrow trouble.” So I live in the pride of a son in military service, not in the world of “what ifs.”
One of the most moving songs was “Mansions of the Lord,” arranged for the mini-series “Band of Brothers.” I’m glad I was playing, because the words are very difficult to sing (especially that third verse).
To fallen soldiers let us sing;
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing;
Our broken heroes let us bring
To the mansions of the Lord.
No more bleeding, no more fight,
No more prayers pleading through the night,
Just divine embrace, eternal light
In the mansions of the Lord.
Where no mothers cry and no children weep;
We will stand and guard tho’ the angels sleep;
All through the ages safely keep
In the mansions of the Lord.
We love and miss you, Sean, and we are very proud of you!
Posted on May 27, 2012, in Boot Camp, Military Parent, Motherhood, US Marine Corps and tagged Armed Forces Day, choir, Mansions of the Lord, Memorial Day, military service, orchestra, San Antonio, service songs, University UMC. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.