The Book of Esther from the Old Testament doesn’t mention the name of God even once, but God is there. In that story, the good guy is Mordecai who saves the life of the king. Some time later, Mordecai gets on the bad side of Haman, the bad guy, who as a result of this decides to manipulate the king into exterminating the Jews because Mordecai is Jewish. There comes a point in the story when the king is awake in the night having his annals read to him and is reminded that Mordecai had saved his life and wants to honor him. 


 

 


The Book of Esther from the Old Testament doesn’t mention the name of God even once, but God is there. In that story, the good guy is Mordecai who saves the life of the king. Some time later, Mordecai gets on the bad side of Haman, the bad guy, who as a result of this decides to manipulate the king into exterminating the Jews because Mordecai is Jewish. There comes a point in the story when the king is awake in the night having his annals read to him and is reminded that Mordecai had saved his life and wants to honor him. 


The king remembers.


This is an aspect of divinity. The Lord remembered Rachel and opened her womb and she gave birth to Joseph. God gave the sign of the rainbow to remind himself not to destroy the world with water. 


And the king’s remembrance of Mordecai set into motion a chain of events wherein the Jews and Mordecai were saved and Haman, manipulative scoundrel that he was, was killed. 


This came into my mind recently as I was again at the Veteran’s Memorial to witness the commissioning of a new class of second lieutenants freshly minted from the ROTC program at PSU. 


The Veteran’s Memorial is a beautiful site for this ceremony. It is a hidden treasure. A passerby could reasonably think that the memorial was just a grassy hill. You follow a path, pass through an arch, turn a corner and you enter a sacred place. There are flags of many places, a reflecting pool, and an eternal flame. To the south are the seats where visitors sit and view the ceremony, and to the north is the wall wherein the names of the fallen are written.


As the commissioning ceremony proceeded, I found myself looking from the names on the wall to the faces of the nine young people who were being commissioned.


Those whose names are on the wall were once as alive as the polished and smiling cadets ready to receive their commission. They lived and breathed, walked and talked and had parents and lovers. Now they are dust, and only the name remains.


And the memory.


We are told there will be a day when the lion will lie with the lamb, spears will be beaten into pruning hooks, and we will study war no more. That day is not today.


I sat and wondered about the young people who in sharp, orderly fashion swore their oaths to defend us against all enemies foreign and domestic.  Young people with parents and fiancé(e)s, all of them lean, tan and fit.


They receive their bars from loved ones; they receive the first salute from a sergeant and give him a dollar. 


We pray for a world where the lion will eat straw like an ox, where a child can handle an asp like a pet. 


But we look at the names on the wall and know that others have prayed this before us and we remember the girls left waiting for the boy who never comes home. We remember the parents with the picture in a place of honor, carefully preserved. We remember the fields where poppies blow between the crosses row on row.


The wind whips the flags ragged, and the flag poles ring with the sounds of their cords whipping against them. A soldier speaks words and the cannon fires. I flinch, but the soldiers don’t. The ceremony is dismissed for photographs. 


The names on the wall are like the kings annals. They wait to be read. 


Read and remember.


Bobby Winters is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University.