For this Memorial Day weekend, we need to spend some time to think clearly about, and thank gratefully, the people who have served our country through the years. Their decision was more than to defend our citizens; it was a decision to protect the essential principles of freedom. People, like John Finn, felt this sense of duty and exhibited true humility in serving.

John Finn - World War IIJohn Finn died at the age of 100 this past week. His story is one of stepping up to serve and staying engaged in battle even with many, many wounds dealt to his body. His spirit was the spark to his physical capability to continue his duty through the Pearl Harbor attacks. John’s spirit enabled him to return to his post quickly, even though his physical wounds still needed healing time.

His spirit is stated best in John’s own words, as told to The Associated Press before his 100th birthday:

“Here they’re paying you for doing your duty, and that’s what I did. I never intended to be a hero. But on Dec. 7, by God, we’re in a war.”

John Finn’s spirit is only matched by his humility, and he represents well what many have done in past wars and conflicts.

I don’t personally know John Finn, but I know people like him. I knew Leonard Erbe who was one of the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy. Wounded. He spent his life with the spirit of taking care of the land and always doing his best in helping others. I know Orson Swindle who was a pilot in the Vietnam War, shot down, and spent seven years as a POW. Tortured. He was released with the strength of character to lead with complete clarity and sense of purpose. Many like John Finn, Leonard Erbe, and Orson Swindle have deep-rooted stories of serving their country and then leading lives filled with purpose, spirit, strength, and humility.

This Memorial Day, remember the spirit within those who have served and  remember their strength of character. Remember also how the choices they made have enabled us to continue to experience freedom. Let us, in turn, build upon what they have inspired by doing good works and making the best choices we possibly can in our daily lives.