War will do strange things to people. It can bring out the best and the worst in men. My dad was wounded on the battlefield in Vietnam and he would occasionally share stories of what he saw and experienced. There is a sense in which we never know how we will respond under the stresses of war until we are there. But I also know that the heroism of the fallen soldiers whom we are remembering today was probably not born on the battlefield but in the backyard. Those virtues of courage, honor, sacrifice, and brotherhood are the virtues that should be being forged in our sons in the backyard battlefields of play and pretend.
What is childhood play but the incubator from which real life virtue grows. Do we teach our sons what it looks like to be a protector of the weak? Have they learned the virtue of chivalry in how they act and speak toward their sisters? Have they learned that there is a time to fight and a time to flee? Have they learned that even in war, there is a way to fight honorably and a way to fight dishonorably?
In a general sense (not in every case, of course) we live like we play. There is nothing about war that brings out of a man what is not already planted within him. It may be there in seed form and needs something to grow it up quickly, but it is there nonetheless. These virtues among those who have fallen are a grace from our Lord. Not all heroism on the battlefield flows from a heart redeemed by special grace. Some of it is the common grace given even to sinners for a greater good. The men and women who have laid down there lives are worthy to be remembered today. Not every war was just. Not every conflict was noble and good. But the honor of the individual soldier is not measured in the war he fought but in how he fought the war.