Graveside Service Scenario
Psalm 91:14-16 – “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I [will be] with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”
This passage ends with the Lord’s words to us, “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.” Sergeant Sparks, as we gather here, is with Christ. He is experiencing the satisfaction of eternal life with Christ, and is actually beholding the source of His salvation. Let us mourn his physical death, but rejoice in his eternal life. May we hope for the same – to be reunited with him and with Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation.
Would you pray with me?
“Oh Lord, as we commit this Soldier to your care, we pray for his wife, Beth, and his children, Ronnie and Deborah. Lord, comfort them and be with them. May they look to You in this extremely difficult and troublesome time. Lord, be with us that remain, that we may love them and care for them as You do for us. May Your love shine even in the midst of the grief that surrounds, and may You be glorified in the way this family is cared for in the days and weeks to come. Be with us, Lord. We cannot do this without You. Thank You for the life of Sergeant Sparks. May this somber occasion not be remembered primarily as the end of his physical life, but the beginning of His eternal life with You, oh Lord. We ask all these things in Your holy name, Jesus. Amen.
Memorial Service Scenario
Good afternoon. We’re all gathered here today to honor two outstanding American Soldiers – SFC Ronnie Sparks and SGT Joseph Leary. These two brave Soldiers died for their country in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are all gathered here today to honor them and their sacrifice.
Ronnie Sparks was a devoted husband and father. His beautiful wife, Beth, is here with us today as well as his lovely children, Ronnie Jr. and Deborah. Ronnie lived a life of exemplariness. He was married to Beth for 12 years, and was the embodiment of an exemplary husband. His example as a father was exemplary. His devotion to his church, Eagle Way Seventh Day Adventist, was exemplary as well. His example as an NCO to the younger Soldiers under his command was exemplary.
Joseph Leary had one of the strongest senses of duty of any man I have ever known. His duty to his country compelled him to volunteer for service in the Army. His duty as an NCO made him one of the best and most popular Soldiers I have ever seen. Joseph was not only Soldier of the Quarter as an E4, but also NCO of the Quarter as an E5. His devotion to duty was inspirational and contagious. So conscious of duty was Joseph that he volunteered to replace a Soldier who was ill with a stomach virus on the mission that took his life.
Much is made of the death of a Soldier. Why is that? It is because it is sacrificial. These men voluntarily surrendered their own freedom so that you and I, and our kids and grandkids, can enjoy freedom. Abraham Lincoln, in his famous Gettysburg Address, speaking of the Soldiers who fought and died there, speaks of “those who gave their lives that this nation might live.” This is the idea of substitutionary sacrifice. These two men, known and loved by all of us, gave their lives so that this nation might live.
We are all indebted to these men. We are recipients of their grace – we have received freedom that we did nothing to deserve. You see, there is no freedom unless someone dies for it, and you and I are still alive. The death of SFC Sparks and SGT Leary is so praiseworthy because, in their death, they have given us freedom. Their death is so much bigger than themselves and the circumstances surrounding it – their blood was shed for every American citizen that freedom might be preserved.
These men have much in common with Jesus Christ. Jesus once said, “No greater love has any man than this – that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus Christ, like these men, did not let His greatness end at his eloquent vocabulary. Like SFC Sparks and SGT Leary, His vocabulary became action. He carried a Roman cross to the hill of Calvary, and there shed His blood for you and I. His death was the ultimate substitutionary sacrifice – it paid the price of our sins, once and forever. The grace we receive from His death is everlasting. By his wounds, we have the ability to enter into a personal relationship with Him forever.
So today, as we reflect upon the sacrifice of SFC Sparks and SGT Leary, and as we ponder the grace we receive from their death, let their sacrifice remind us of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. You see, without the death of these two men, we have no freedom, but without the death of Jesus Christ, we have no hope of freedom. Let us never forget that sacrifice is necessary for freedom – the greater the freedom the higher the cost of sacrifice. Today and forevermore, let us look upon these men with thanks, and with reverence, and with honor. And as we remember them, let their death remind us of Christ – of His sacrifice. For if their deaths can be remembered in this way, their lives will have eternal significance. Would you pray with me?
“Lord, we have lost two amazing men and Soldiers. Let us remember their lives as they lived them – as men of the highest standard. And when we think of their sacrificial death, may our hearts and minds turn to You. May their death serve the ultimate purpose of not just temporal freedom, but of eternal freedom as a result of Your sacrifice for us. Amen.”
Memorial Ceremony Scenario
I can do no better to start this Memorial Ceremony, and honor these men, than to quote the General Orders from May 5, 1868, which marked the first Memorial Day.
“What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.”
Today we have family and friends here to remember the service of these men to their country. Let us treat their final resting place with the utmost respect because of this service to their country – their service for you and I. The death of Soldiers always comes before they have fully had the opportunity to enjoy life. However, the circumstances surrounding Specialist Green, Sergeant Reynolds, PFC Foster, and Private Cooke were certainly tragic and avoidable. Nonetheless, these men leave behind family – wives, children, mothers, and fathers – as well as friends and battle buddies. Let us not neglect to care for these precious family members, especially in this time of need.
These men volunteered for service in the Army of this great nation, and for that they will receive the honor for which they are due. The lessons learned from their lives are invaluable – lessons of duty, honor, integrity, courage, and sacrifice. The way these men lived their lives ought to motivate and inspire us to greater things than ourselves. The way these men lived their lives has earned them the right to be honored appropriately in death.
The lessons learned from their deaths are equally invaluable. Irresponsibility and poor decisions lead to the tragic and unnecessary deaths of not only themselves, but the death of a six year old girl and her father. The mother and her unborn child are not only physically traumatized, but emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives. When they recover, they must somehow carry on without the other half of their family. Let us remember them today as well, and care for them, too.
Ladies and gentlemen, these men were Soldiers and they will be honored as such. Let us not simply learn from their lives, but, when we look at their deaths, let it inspire us to be better husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, daughters, sons, Soldiers. Let us never take for granted that which we have. Just as our freedom can be quickly taken away, so can our lives or everything that we love. Let us not forget their life or their death, for both of these things can serve to make us more loving and appreciative of our country, more loving and appreciative of our family, and more loving and appreciative of the time we have. Thank you and God Bless You.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years