This coming Monday marks the national observance of Memorial Day all across America. There will be the sound of marching feet, band music, drums pounding and flags waving in both the big cities and the small towns.
People will gather at a park or a cemetery where speeches will be given, prayers will be said, taps will be played, a salute will be given and guns will be fired.
They do so because it is a way to say, “Thank You,” to those who died that we might continue to talk the way we talk, work the way we work, worship the way we do and live in the manner that we live. These are all liberties that we hold very dear but more often than not take very much for granted.
From Gettysburg to Berlin, from San Juan Hill to Heartbreak Ridge, from Iwo Jima to Saigon, from Desert Storm to Iraq come the echoed cries from those who gave us the best of what they had so we can function the way that we do. The blood of American Soldiers is permanently mingled with the soil of four continents.
Memorial Day or Decoration Day emerged from the shadows of the Civil War. In 1865, days after Robert E. Lee surrendered; a group of women in Vicksburg, Mississippi decorated the graves of the war dead. Three years later, May 30th was set aside for the placing of flowers on the graves of our fallen soldiers who had given their lives in the service of our country all across America.
I want to share with you an incident that occurred at Arlington Cemetery that serves as a reminder that God looked down on this event we call Memorial Day and affirmed it as a good thing. When the first Memorial Day was celebrated, a group of women from Washington D.C. asked the U.S. War department for permission to put flowers on the soldiers’ graves at the Arlington Cemetery.
After much haggling through the usual red tape that was even prevalent back then, the permission was granted to do so. But along with the verbal green light came a stern order that no flowers be placed on the graves of the confederate men who were buried in a segregated section of the cemetery.
The ladies regretfully carried out their task being very careful to follow their instructions. Now listen carefully to what happened next. General James Garfield made a speech and as he spoke on us being a united people, almost on cue, a strong wind arose causing the flowers that were placed to blow over and also cover the graves of the confederate soldiers. After that event, the separation was never repeated. Many that were there attribute what they saw to Divine intervention.
Since World War II, Memorial Day has honored the fallen dead of all our wars and we ought to make some time this weekend to honor those heroes of the past and say a prayer for our current heroes of today and actually reflect and remember that what they did yesterday allows us to do what we long to do today.
Parents, perhaps this Memorial Day weekend, you might consider taking your children to one of the local ceremonies being held so that they don’t miss a chance to know the history of their country and meet face to face with some of those wonderful men and women who made some of that history come true.
Memorial Day is about remembering, and locked away, deep down inside of every heart and mind is a treasure chest full of memories and visions of the past that time can never erase. Not all of our memories are pleasant. Some are sad and even bathed in tears. Why is it that we remember the things that we should forget and forget the things that we need to remember?
One of the biggest reasons that we must keep Memorial Day true to its purpose is so that we don’t let things so important fade away. We need appointed times to hear the stories from our veterans and watch the tears in their eyes as they share the tales of comrades lost in the heat of battle and hear their passion as they tell of the adventures they experienced along the way.
We need to make up for the way we mistreated our patriots when they returned from Viet Nam and encourage them and affirm their dedication and commitment. And we need to gather to pray for our young men and women currently in the midst of war making sacrifices on our behalf. Besides the three words, “I love you,” I can’t think of a more powerful sentence then the two little words, “Thank you.” If there is one thing we all could use a little more of, it is becoming a thankful people who recognize their blessings before it is too late.
This June 6th will be the 62nd anniversary since the first D-Day and for the very few men that remain, their bond is still as strong as ever and their respect for one another is just as true. And if you call them heroes, well, in one of his last newsletters, Mike Ranney wrote, “In thinking back on my days of Easy Company in World War II, I’m treasuring my remark to a grandson who asked, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ ‘No, I answered, ‘but I served in a company of heroes.” Memorial Day is our chance to also be in “the company of heroes” for they are leaving us at a much too rapid pace.
Memorial Day is a very appropriate time to remember what makes us all flourish and that is to use our lives as they were meant to be used – in the service of our God, in the mission to love Him and to love others as ourselves and to always use things and love people and never get it backwards.
So this weekend, I humbly ask you to give thanks and learn a story or two from a veteran and don’t forget to remember: your God, your family and friends and your country and properly show your gratitude.
Come to a very special Memorial Day Service at the Lighthouse Church this weekend. You can choose from Saturday night at 6 p.m. or Sunday at 9 and 10:30 a.m. Call 465-6690 for directions.
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