The French 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment is one of the oldest of the French Marines and trace their roots to 1622 when Cardinal Richelieu (of 3 Musketeers fame) created infantry Marines embarked on royal naval ships, where they manned naval artillery, and participated in the boarding of enemy ships. They also guarded various sea ports.
The 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment has seen service in every major French conflict since 1813 including modern conflicts in Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.
In 1870, during the Battle of Bazeilles, the Marines fought to the very last bullet. After this bloody loss, General de Vassoigne famously remarked, “The Marine Troops fought beyond the extreme limits of duty.” To this day, the French Marines recognize their defense of the last house, to the last bullet, as an identity building event; though their motto wouldn’t come for another 40 years.
The phrase: “Debout Les Morts – The Dead, Get Up!” became the motto of the 3rd Marine Regiment when Adjudant Péricard declared those words to encourage his troops on February 27, 1915, during a bloody battle to recapture a fort. In this battle, the regiment endured 189 killed, 575 wounded and 250 disappeared unaccounted for.
Throughout the 3rd French Marine’s history, they often fought while outnumbered sometimes even 10 to 1. They have lost multitudes of Marines in combat. And several times the regiment was dissolved only to be resurrected a few years later and sent back into the fray. Like our Marine Corps, it seems not even death, could keep them out of the fight.
No time to mourn, “The Dead, Get Up!”
That phrase makes me think of the Resurrection and a powerful account of Jesus, taking the fight to death itself, and making life prevail.
In Luke 7 Jesus “went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
Death is a fearsome foe and no matter how hard we fight it, we have no strength of our own to fight it off forever. Once someone is swallowed down by death, we are left alone and frightened, knowing that we will become death’s prey all too soon and at a time we may not even expect.
Yet Jesus dares to say: “Do not weep.”
Today is Memorial Day and Jesus’ actions in Luke 7 are powerful to reflect on.
Not many things in life are as sad as funerals. Caskets. Bagpipes. 21 gun salutes. Flowers and Folded flags. I’ve done dozens of funerals as a Pastor and Chaplain, and attended dozens more.
In every experience I’ve had with death, my comfort comes in the promise that when God declares, “Get up” even the dead can’t stay dead.
Throughout the Bible, Jesus never meets a corpse that He doesn’t bring back to life.
In Luke 7, Jesus is a man on a mission. Focused and determined. He goes to the coffin, grabs it, and stops the sad procession to the grave. He stops Death, dead in its tracks.
Then He speaks. “Young man, I say to you, get up.”
He prays no prayer. He gives an order. And it is obeyed because LIFE is His to give.
The Dead, Get Up!
And the young man did! He sat up in the casket. I bet the guys carrying it nearly dropped the casket in surprise!
Then Jesus simply took the man’s hand and gave him back to his mother.
Because Jesus is “..the Resurrection and the Life.”
Victorious over death. He raises the Dead! He is so bursting with LIFE that His voice has the power to waken all the dead and command them from their tombs.
On Memorial Day, this promise is especially comforting as I think of the friends who I have lost in combat over the last 20 years and the funerals I have done for the fallen. The Resurrection is my hope every time I find myself standing beside a flower or flag draped casket.
What a joyous day it will be in cemeteries around the world and for each of us when Jesus declares to the dead, “Get up!” And life springs forth!
“Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live!”
Death is not stronger than His voice!
Which means we can mourn with hope.
Like Patton once said,
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”
And so today we do.
Memorial Day gives us a moment to pause and think of our brothers and sisters in arms who have laid down their lives at the altar of freedom. To thank God that they lived and to celebrate their lives.
But I hope you take to heart the words of today’s devotion not just for Memorial Day, but for all of us who mourn the death of family members or friends.
Take hope. Be comforted. The dead indeed will get up! Just like that young man did when Jesus took him by the hand and gave him back to his mother. Just like the empty tomb on Easter.
I pray that each of you would know comfort and peace.
Let that motto, “The Dead, Get Up!” embolden you to live each day, knowing that Life triumphs!
The curse of sin and death have been destroyed. The do not get the last word for any of us, which means that Life is victorious!
The dead will get up. And not to fight, but to be at peace
On that day, sadness will be turned to never ending joy!
*Written onboard USS GRIDLEY (DDG 101) afloat in the North Pacific Ocean as part of a 30 Day Devotional at Sea that is based on Military Unit Mottos.