The Gold Star Heroes – Memorial Day
It is difficult to introduce a post like today’s. Honoring true heroes with words alone isn’t possible; though heartfelt, they simply aren’t adequate. I encourage you on this Memorial Day, DO something to honor the memory of a hero: give a gift to his/her family (flowers, a gift card, pay for a night out, anything); write a letter or make a call; or visit a grave, as the writer of today’s post did.
Few Americans nowadays think of honor as spiritual. But it actually is very spiritual. Whether it be toward God, parents, elders, country (and, yes, its flag), or the memory of those who preceded us, the value of honor has depreciated. We are all poorer because of this sad fact. Please join our contributor today, retired Army Major William J. Ostan, the recipient of two bronze stars, in giving worthy honor where it is due. Will shares:
“Have you ever spent a day with one of your heroes? I recently did, and it changed me in ways I did not expect. It reawakened and reanimated the biblical precept of ‘honor’ in my spirit. Before I tell you the name of my hero, I want to talk about my journey in understanding what it means to be heroic.
“My childhood and teenage years were spent idolizing Michael Jordan’s exploits on the basketball court and admiring Derek Jeter’s winning ways on the baseball diamond. Jordan and Jeter were my heroes. As a youth, I wore their jerseys with pride, had posters of them in my room, and tried, unsuccessfully of course, to replicate their athletic prowess.
“There is nothing wrong with looking up to sports stars, since they often model discipline, fortitude, and grit as they strive to overcome adversity in their pursuit of professional excellence. These are all qualities that we should aspire to incorporate into our daily lives. But it wasn’t until NFL football player Pat Tillman lost his life in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, while serving with the Army Rangers, that I began to ponder another, deeper meaning of heroism.
“Webster’s 1828 Dictionary primarily defines the word ‘hero’ as a person of ‘distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in danger; as a hero in arms.’ The secondary definition is ‘a great, illustrious, or extraordinary person; as a hero in learning.’[i]
“Some of these words like ‘valor,’ ‘intrepidity,’ or ‘illustrious’ seem anachronistic, as if they belong in an ancient time with no relevance to our modern lives. But I think these words, just like heroes, are needed now more than ever. In fact, I believe all of these words from antiquity can point us to one word that still holds gravitas in the past and the present – that word is ‘honor.’
“The Bible is full of instructions pertaining to honor, which Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines as ‘to revere; to respect; to manifest the highest veneration for, in words and actions.’[ii] In 1 Timothy 1:17 and Revelation 5:13, we are exhorted to honor God. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:17(NASB) to ‘honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.’ In Romans 12:10(ESV), Paul commands us to ‘love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.’
“On Memorial Day, we adhere to this Biblical principle by honoring the brave men and women of the United States’ Armed Forces who have given their lives willingly in defense of our freedom. As a combat veteran of two foreign wars, I have seen the immediate costs of the Fallen’s sacrifice. Before their flag-draped coffins would depart on their final flight home to America, we would pause all warfighting duties to remember their lives in a formal ceremony. The gravitas and emotional import of those ceremonies are seared into my heart and mind.
“What I did not fully realize until several years after my combat deployments were complete, is that the heroes we lost on the battlefield were not the only ones worthy of honor. Their families, left behind to navigate life without their beloved Fallen Servicemember, are also worthy of veneration. According to Arlington National Cemetery’s official website, they became known as ‘Gold Star Families’ because:
‘Following the end of World War II, Congress designated the Gold Star Lapel Pin. The pin was modeled after the banners and features a gold star with a purple background surrounded by laurel leaves. According to law, the United States military must present the lapel pin to the immediate family member of the deceased. If you see someone wearing this pin, know that they lost someone close to them who served the country heroically.’[iii]
“This brings us to the moment where I can introduce you to my hero whom I alluded to earlier.
“Staff Sergeant (SSG) Michael H. Simpson, an elite U.S. Army ‘Green Beret,’ was assigned to Charlie Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) when he departed for his second combat deployment on April 6, 2013. While maneuvering on an ATV in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, SSG Simpson hit a pressure-plate improvised explosive device (IED). On May 1, 2013, he died of wounds sustained in the blast. Mike was only 30 years old.[iv]
“Mike’s Gold Star Wife, Krista Simpson Anderson, is my hero. There are many reasons why I have a high regard for her, but one of the most notable is instead of becoming embittered by the tragic loss of her husband, Krista heroically founded The Unquiet Professional. They are a world class charitable organization committed to recognizing and honoring our nation’s Gold Star Families, Veterans, and military families by providing rewarding and purposeful opportunities to heal from the wounds of war.[v]
“A few weeks ago, Krista took me to visit Mike’s final place of rest in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery. I do not cry often, but I was moved to tears. This is because, in the sacred grounds at Arlington, honor is more than a word. It is a tangible presence, a weighty reminder that we live amidst an unseen spiritual realm where the sacrifices paid by the dearly departed saints whisper to us. If we are willing to listen, their memorable lives are always encouraging us to act in an honorable way, worthy of Jesus Christ who is our undisputed ultimate Hero.[vi]
“Today, Memorial Day 2023, may we all ask Holy Spirit to empower us to live lives full of honor, as we remember the Fallen heroes like Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson and the heroic Gold Star families like Krista Simpson Anderson and her children.