This post contains affiliate links for the books I recommend.
Memorial Day is this weekend. With that comes picnics, American flags, and the official start of summer.
But that is not the actual point of Memorial Day. The point is to remember and honor those who died for our country. Begun in the years after the Civil War, it was originally celebrated on May 30th, because that date was not a commemoration of any particular battle- enabling the commemoration to be about the soldier and not the cause. The date was later moved to the last Monday in May so we could have a three day weekend. (Maybe that is where the day began to lose its meaning?)
I have friends who have lost sons. For them, Memorial Day is not a time for a picnic- it is to remember. And as the wife of a military man, Memorial Day is important to me. I remember not just those who died, but those who have sacrificed so much through the years defending our country. My husband served in the Air Force for twenty years, during which our family made many sacrifices. But those sacrifices are not a drop in a thimble compared to people who have laid their lives down.
If you want to know why remembering on Memorial Day is so important, and the depth of the debt we owe our soldiers, read one of the following books. Fair warning: you will not be the same afterword.
If you read two or three of them, you might find your mind forever altered. You might even walk up to a random service person and give them a hug, just in sheer gratitude. Consider yourself warned!
Books for Memorial Day
If you want to begin to understand what Americans have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy every day, we have to know their stories. Here are some of my favorite eye-opening, jaw-dropping, mind-altering books.
Below are affiliate links for the books I recommend.
by Hampton Sides
Ghost Soldiers recounts the fall of the Philippines, the horrific Bataan Death March, and the internment of thousands of American soldiers. Interwoven seamlessly in the book is the additional story of the heroic measures taken toward the end of the war to rescue the remaining soldiers at Cabanatuan Prison. Hampton Sides weaves together heartbreak and inspiration in an epic story.
I want to never forget the immense sacrifices made by those who endured internment, and I want to remember the bravery and heroism displayed of those who laid down their own safety to rescue their brother soldiers. This story resounds with resilience, courage, and endurance.
Out of the Depths
by Edgar Harrell
Out of the Depths records the harrowing five days the Sailors and Marines of the USS Indianapolis spent in the Pacific after their ship was torpedoed. Their numbers dwindled from over 900 to just 316 as hypothermia, salt water poisoning, and the ever-present sharks took their toll. Edgar Harrell writes this story as a survivor, and throughout the book honors the Lord, Who never forsook him during the entire ordeal. I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Harrell speak a few years ago and he left an indelible impression as a fierce and cheerful patriot.
I want to always remember the bravery and fortitude that enabled any of these men to survive. Harrell includes a quote by another survivor, Dale F. Krueger, which states, "Although all of us experienced a great tragedy, I have never been sorry I joined the United States Navy. Nothing is too great to protect freedom for our country." (page 168) That attitude is why America is still free.
by Laura Hillenbrand
Oh, this story.
If you have ever wondered how much the human body and spirit can endure and still survive, read this book. Laura Hillenbrand , in her own spell-binding way, conveys the story of the indomitable Louis Zamperini. Several chapters of Louis's life deserve books of their own, but Ms. Hillenbrand weaves them together in a way where it was impossible for me to put the book down once I had begun. God's redemption, seen in the final chapter of the book, becomes Louis's main focus until he died at 97 in 2014.
I don't think I complained about anything for a good three months after reading this book. I desire to always remember the exorbitant cost my freedom took from so many men and women in WWII. This book drives that message home like no other.
by Marcus Luttrell
We are surrounded by young heroes today who have served and protected us through their service in the Middle East. The many walking wounded carry internal scars, and the rates of divorce, suicide, and drug addiction in these young soldiers is terrifying. Reading Lone Survivor helps me remember that heroic sacrifice is not a thing of past wars. It is a current reality.
Marcus Luttrell recounts the harrowing, heart-wrenching, and heroic events of four Navy Seals, of which he is the only survivor. Just reading the beginning section, which vividly describes the training Seals endure, forever elevated my appreciation of our Special Forces. But the story in Afghanistan gripped my heart and would not let me go until I read the last page. I cried with Marcus's family as news of rescue arrived back in Texas and I grieved with him as he went to the families of the three Seals who did not return from that mountain in Afghanistan.
I pledge to forever remember their sacrifices.
Remember this Memorial Day the sacrifices the members of our Armed Forces have made. In these days of crazy presidential races and waning patriotism we need to remember more than ever- our freedoms have been worth fighting and dying for.
If you don't have time to read a book before Monday!- most of these have been made into movies. But the movies only contain a fraction of the story. If you really want to know the depth of what happened, read the book!
Let us never forget. And may we keep fighting to the end to preserve the liberty bought for us at such a high price.