The Sunday over Memorial Day weekend is the one Sunday of the year when I wear my uniform in the church service. It is not a matter of patriotism or nationalism but rather an act of remembrance on the day of national mourning.
After serving two combat tours, Memorial Day is forever changed for me just as it is for so many veterans. It is a day when putting my uniform on is very hard.
For us, it is about the faces grieving on the battlefield, at the graveside, and even sometimes knocking at the front door to tell a family their loved one will not be coming home.
We do not sing patriotic songs in church because the service is not about self-congratulation or pride. Rather it is a time for us to grieve together and consider the great cost of war.
During the service, I do ask all those who have lost loved ones in time of war to rise and tell us their name and where they were lost. We take a moment of silence, and then we pray for those still grieving after many years and for those newly grieving this year.
I also ask our people to remember to hang their flags in front of their homes on Memorial Day. Again, not for the sake of patriotism but in case there are neighbors or even strangers driving down the street who have lost loved ones. Seeing the flags might help comfort them, knowing the residents of that house have not forgotten.
This weekend will be a time when people celebrate getting together with their friends and families. To everyone in churches I would say take time to go be somber and remember those who never got to come back to their families or even have them.
Pray with the hope of the day that must come when all our tears are wiped away and we shall study war no more forever.
Cmdr. Frank Riley is a chaplain with the US Navy and stationed in Coronado, California