In honor of Memorial Day weekend the Rock Church held Military Sunday on May 27 to honor those who serve and have served in our armed forces.
A massive star-spangled banner covered the front archway of the church and following worship there were patriotic songs complete with color guard. A reception was held for military and family after all services, and special guest Jeff Bramstedt, a former Navy SEAL, co-led service with Pastor Miles McPherson. McPherson said the celebration was a fitting tribute in honor of our military members.
"The greatest sacrifice someone can make is to lay their life down; that's what the military does," said McPherson. "We want to acknowledge that and encourage them because it can be very discouraging being away from your family for much of the time, laying your life on the line, seeing people die. We just want to be encouraging. It's a blessing to be able to provide that."
Frank Longley, an E4 in the Navy who serves as an Aviation Mechanic at North Island Coronado, said he felt honored. "It's great, there's a lot of support coming from the Rock. It felt pretty good to stand up (for) the applause. And the humungous flag on the front door? Awesome!"
Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, Russ LaBelle said that the idea of sacrifice is so integral to the military and the message of Christianity, that "honoring our military members and honoring God at the same time is a phenomenal thing."
Yet the celebration was a sobering one for many. One of the slogans of the US Navy SEAL teams is "The only easy day was yesterday," popularized in the recent film, "Act of Valor." But for many who serve in that elite force and other branches of the military, Memorial Day is a day that is far from easy.
"I want people to remember [that] a lot of vets are homeless...and dealing with mental illness and other disabilities. We need to remember them during this day," said LaBelle.
"It's not about Monday off, it's not about the barbeque and the beer, it's not about getting the kids over to the pool party, getting to the beach, and there are reasons for that," said Bramstedt. His eyes -- which have seen the unimaginable to most Americans -- misted over, and his voice betrayed a tremble as he spoke of friends departed, both in the line of duty and after.
"Memorial Day is set up as a day to remember the people who have laid down their lives for the freedoms you now get to enjoy," Bramstedt said. "I have a lot of best friends, a lot of roommates, a lot of buddies, guys I went through training with, guys who I've known my entire adult life, who are dead ... Memorial Day for me means something different than for someone who hasn't lived the life that I've lived. I'm 41 years old and feel like 65 inside."
His mission now is to tour churches and challenge men to rise up to become leaders, encouraging them through the "Life of Valor" curriculum that was released as a companion to the "Act of Valor" movie.
Rock Church Military leader, Chief Brad French, handed out swag bags to service members and their families following the service, filled with gifts, discounts and resource information. French also invited agencies designed to assist veterans as they transition to civilian life. The transition is often rocky and if there is no safety net, the results can manifest in unemployment, drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, mental illness, homelessness and suicide.
For French and other military members, Memorial Day is ultimately encompassed in one word: Remember.
"It's cool that all of us can come together for a second and remember not only those who are serving right now but take a moment to reflect on the guys we've lost downrange, overseas and even the ones we've lost here, whether it's to suicide or motorcycle accidents," said French. "We've all lost friends. Take a minute to remember the ultimate sacrifice that they gave. God gave his Son; He can sit alongside us and understand what sacrifice is about."
To find out more about the Rock's Military Ministry, visit www.sdrock.com/ministries/military/.