On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember sacrifice. We honor and mourn those who gave their lives serving in the armed forces of the United States. Many have lost their lives on the battlefield, but for some, the sacrifice and repercussions stretched into the years which followed.  The same price was paid, but more slowly.

I read this week of Army Staff Sergeant Jerry Gillespie. As he was finishing his second tour in Vietnam in 1974, he was excited to put this traumatic part of his life behind them. He was hoping the war would soon be over. But a soft mist called Agent Orange proved to be as lethal as any enemy bullet.  And this “bullet” followed him home.

Agent Orange was sprayed over large swaths of Vietnam, hoping it would save American lives as it defoliated the dense jungle enough to take away enemy hiding places. Jerry Gillespie was in one of the most affected areas, near the former U.S. Military base in Bien Hoa, north of Ho Chi Minh City. He had no idea that he was being exposed to dioxin, a chemical now associated with the development of at least 15 debilitating illnesses, including heart disease and numerous cancers. In the years after the war, Jerry would suffer five heart attacks, diabetes, two strokes, and ultimately in 2013, he would pass away.

No bullet of the enemy killed him while on duty, but the war killed him just the same. It just took a while.

Memorial Day is a day of mixed emotions for many soldiers and their families. It is a day to honor a loved one fallen in battle. It’s a day of weeping. It is a day to remember the cost of freedom.

Jerry’s son, Blaze, would later write, “The sacrifice that the day represents is almost Godlike, giving your life for others. It’s the true tribute to ‘If not me, then who?’”

We hope to have some fun in our pickleball tournament on Monday. But we must also consider the high cost of that fun we’ll have. Men and women have sacrificed with their lives that we might be free to bat around a pickleball (whatever that is).

War is ugly. Freedom is beautiful. But costly. May we never forget to say thanks for those who have paid the ultimate price. That price may be paid on the battlefield…but it can also be paid because of the battlefield.  Yet the price is the same.

“Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). May we follow in the footsteps of our Savior and be willing to make a sacrifice for the sake of the soul of someone else. Like Jerry Gillespie.