By Ch., Lt. Col. Paul D. Sutter, 354th Fighter Wing chapel services
/ Published January 19, 2012
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
I recall reading about a group of people hiking along the edge of a wooded area. At one point they spotted tombstones just inside the tree line that were overgrown with brush.
They cleared away branches and weeds from one of the markers. To their surprise and dismay the following words were revealed, "We will never forget their sacrifice." A well intentioned sentiment had somehow gotten lost and neglected over time.
How many of us have said something like "I will never forget you," or "I will remember you in my prayers," only to fail to do so?
Even the best of intentions and memories fade over time. As poignant as the experience of Sept. 11, 2001 was for many of us, the intensity of those memories have diminished and subsequent generations will only know of the events from that day by reading historical accounts.
Dec. 7, 2011 marked the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I must confess while I took note of that day, my thoughts paled in comparison to the vivid memories of members from previous generations particularly the 100 or so survivors who gathered in Oahu that day.
The start of a new year is always a good time to pause and remember events from the last as well as previous years. Such remembrances help us give thanks for blessings we have received, mourn significant losses, and celebrate joyful memories once again.
So important is remembering to the human psyche that we set aside specific days to pause and remember as a nation, and some like Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents Day are even holidays. Most of know that failure to remember birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine's Day gets us in big trouble with loved ones.
We have just concluded a major holiday season where extra effort was made to remember friends and loved ones by making phone calls or sending e-mails, cards and gifts. Perhaps we simply posted our greetings via Facebook, Twitter or some other social network. Such annual surges of remembrance are important but it is equally important to regularly express our care to others.
So why is remembering even the important stuff so hard at times? I must confess I don't know or can't remember the answer to that question and find strange consolation in the words of the ancient teacher in Ecclesiastes, "All is Vanity."
We can get worked up over so many things that in the end have no eternal impact or meaning. As we become overwhelmed by our daily tasks, one of our biggest struggles is simply to remember to be kind to one another. The older I get, the more I realize the importance of relationships. Keeping relationships healthy requires us to put the needs of others first and be quick to forgive when we feel neglected or forgotten.
On occasion, I have been asked if I remember a kind word I spoke or deed I performed. Sometimes I do, but often not. The individual then usually reports how much such words or acts meant during a difficult time that I didn't even know they were going through. However, I do know I have been the recipient of such kindness myself.
Even chaplains have bad days and need to hear a word of support from others. I can testify that many of you have encouraged and motivated me and as well as others to persevere through tough times. Thank you. You never know when a simple word or gesture of kindness can make a difference in the life of another person or even save it.
It is certainly impossible to remember everything all the time. Try as we might to remember we will only fail over time. But try we must; one day at a time. Ultimately, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God will never forget us. Therein rests our hope.