I have not lost anyone I know personally in service to our country. I have, however, met a lot of people who have and who were there to see it. I have heard their stories and seen their pain as they talked and often wept about their comrades who died in combat. The respect they hold towards their honored dead is impressive. Most, if not all, try to live their lives now as well as they can to honor them.
While Orthodox Christians do not believe in purgatory, they do pray for the dead. Because God is eternal and omniscient, He knows what I am going to pray before I pray it. I don’t know what was going through people’s minds in their last moments and I like to think that perhaps God prompted them to repent before they died — and that they chose to yield to God’s prompting. I pray towards that end — and even did so before I converted to Orthodoxy. Does God pass these words we say on to the departed? I don’t know. Sometimes I hope so, other times I hope they are so happy where they are they aren’t interested in what I have to say.
We also pray for the dead because it comforts us to be able to express our love towards the departed at least in this way. This is an ancient Christian practice, and also done by the Jewish people before the time of Christ. This article explains it well: https://oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-breck/may-we-pray-for-the-departed.
O God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death and overthrown the Devil, and given life to Thy world, do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the souls of Thy departed servants in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away. Pardon every transgression which they have committed, whether by word or deed or thought. For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind; because there is no man who lives yet does not sin, for Thou only art without sin, Thy righteousness is to all eternity, and Thy word is truth.
For Thou are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Thy servants who have fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever unto ages of ages. Amen.
So my prayers go out today for all those who died serving our country and also for their family and friends.
Photo from: https://www.army.mil/media/437152//