Honouring a gift of sacrifice that knows no boundaries.
Every evening at 8pm the Last Post is played under the great arch of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium.
I recently witnessed this moving event with around 1000 other people from many nations of the world.
The ceremony, which lasts about five minutes, has occurred every day — rain, hail or shine — since the end of World War I (except for the occupation by the Germans in World War II) to honour the many, many lives lost fighting in this region.
It is held here because during the war, Allied soldiers marched to the front line through this gate, flanked by its stone guardian lions.
On the walls of the memorial are inscribed the names of 54,896 soldiers — including 6000 Australians — who are known to have been killed in action here, but whose burial locations remain unknown.
Before the service started, I heard multiple languages and accents, which reminded me of the far-reaching impact of these battles.
The ceremony I attended included bugling, silence, the Ode of Remembrance, wreath laying and an a capella choir. People were respectful and tears welled in my eyes and in the eyes of many around me.
Our attendance at Menin Gate occurred after my family and I had spent several days visiting battle sites and military cemeteries at Villers-Brettonneux, Pozières and Fromelles in France.
At each location I found it difficult to even begin to comprehend the horrors of what these young people faced and the enormity of the loss of life. At Fromelles alone, more Australians were lost in just over 24 hours than in any other conflict.
To say that I have been affected by these visits is an understatement. I do not feel worthy. How am I living to do justice for what they gave up, to honour this gift of sacrifice that was offered for our freedom?
To offer your life in exchange for another’s freedom, whether they deserve it or not, is the message at the heart of the life and death of Jesus. He chose to die so I might live, and as I witnessed these World War I sites first-hand I was grateful for the soldiers’ sacrifice, but even more so for his.
And just as many languages could be heard at Menin Gate that night, Jesus’ sacrifice also knows no national boundaries. His sacrificial love moves me to tears when I allow its significance to sink in. His death was for all. How do I know? Jesus tells us himself, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke chapter 13 verse 29).
Belinda Davis serves as a Salvation Army officer in regional Victoria. Her blog is at www.ablessedlife2017.wordpress.com