In the United States, Memorial Day has been established as a federal holiday to remember those who died while serving in the armed forces. Other countries also have established days of remembrance for their fallen service members—valiant men and women who gave what Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion” to a cause greater than self. It is only fitting that we pause to remember them and the sacrifices they made so we can enjoy the blessings of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
If you’ve ever visited a veterans cemetery, like those at Arlington or Normandy—or anyplace where veterans have been laid to rest—you know that there’s a sacred feeling there. You can’t help but feel a deep respect and reverence for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Behind each grave marker are unfulfilled hopes and dreams of families saddened by the loss of a loved one.
General Douglas MacArthur observed that “the soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” For every grave marker at a cemetery there are many other veterans who survived war but carry its scars. Some have endured terrible life-changing physical injuries. Others are broken emotionally because of what they experienced. Still others suffer from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury. Most experience some form of moral injury that causes them to question whether the Atonement of Christ is still available to them.
The truth is, Christ descended below all things, suffering every kind of affliction and temptation so that He would know “how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (see Alma 7:11–12). Therefore, no one can say to the Lord, “But you don’t know how I feel” or “You do not know what I have endured.” He indeed knows, and we all have access to His Atonement and His healing influence in our lives. Through the Atonement, the burdens we carry can be lifted.
Even after his conversion, Alma still had memory of his sins, but he was no longer harrowed up by those memories because He had turned to Christ. Because of this redeeming experience, Alma explained that he “labored without ceasing, that [he] might bring souls unto repentance; that [he] might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which [he] did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (see Alma 36:17–24).
All who answer the call of their country are affected in some way by their combat experience. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said, “War is hell.” Yes, while virtues such as courage, bravery, sacrifice, and love unfeigned are all seen on the battlefield, there is nothing glamorous about war as it is often portrayed on the movie screen. Many who return often relive their war experiences in sleepless nights, recurring dreams, or uncontrollable responses to large crowds, loud noises, and certain smells. They continue to be harrowed up by their memories because they do not know where to turn for peace and forgiveness.
Following the invasion of Iraq, the wife of a marine who was involved in the operation wrote a letter to Elder Robert D. Hales explaining that her husband and others in his unit were struggling with what they saw and did during the war. She asked if there was anything the Church could do to help them put their war experiences in a gospel perspective. In response to her request, a fireside was held for the marines and their families. The talks given at the fireside became the genesis for the DVD Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled. Inspiring talks by President Boyd K. Packer, Elder Robert C. Oaks, Elder Lance B. Wickman, and President Gordon B. Hinckley provided gospel insights, compassion, and understanding for our combat veterans. The title was selected from John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
All veterans seek peace—peace of mind, peace of conscience, peace of understanding, and the peace that comes from Him who suffered for all of us and, through His grace, enables us to return to God whole and complete. For those who still yearn for His promised peace, may I offer this counsel: Never stop trying, never give up, and never lose your faith, for the Son of God knows you and will heal your heart and encircle you in the arms of His love (see 2 Nephi 1:15).
Watch the latest 'His Grace' episode to see the story of two military brothers and their journey.