Dave Scheider is the Director of the Loise Henderson Wessendorf Center for Christian Ministry and Vocation at Seminary of the Southwest. Prior to joining the faculty of Seminary of the Southwest, Dave served as an Army Chaplain for 25 years.
Memorial Day began at the conclusion of the Civil War to commemorate all those who died in that horrific conflict that claimed almost an entire generation of young men. Since the Civil War, the holiday continued as a day to honor all service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. In 25 years of service as an Army chaplain, I gathered countless stories of young men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for others. Each one of them affected me profoundly. This memory is of a young engineer Private.
During a training exercise with the 10th Mountain Division, I sat with several sappers (combat engineers) as an infantry platoon prepared to clear bunkers and a trench system of an enemy base camp. The sappers told me how they were going to thread a banglor torpedo under the concertina wire and blow a hole for the infantry to cross in order to enter the trench. I asked, “What would you do if the torpedo didn’t explode?” They responded that they would pull branches out of trees and make a bridge. “What would you do if there was nothing available to throw on the wire?” I asked. “We would throw ourselves on the wire so they could finish the mission.” In disbelief I said, “Really?” The younger soldier said, “Well I would put my sleeping pad down first.” Fortunately it was barely light out because I didn’t want these men to see the tears filling my eyes. It was not the first time, nor the last time, that young service members inspired me with their willingness to lay down their lives for others. As we pray for peace, let us also pray that the spirit of self-sacrifice will never be extinguished in our nation.
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.