Memorial Day, a day of remembrance
Memorial Day, still called Decoration Day by some, is a day of remembrance for those who have given their lives in all our wars. I've also heard it called Poppy Day. Do you remember the volunteers that sold small, red, artificial poppy flowers as a fundraiser for disabled veterans? Do they still do that?
There are many stories as to the actual beginnings of Memorial Day. Waterloo, N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by presidential proclamation in May 1966. But the tradition of placing flowers on soldiers' graves traces its roots back at least 100 years earlier, to just after the Civil War.
By 1890, all of the northern states recognized Memorial Day. After World War I, the meaning of the holiday was changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War, to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. But it was not until 1971, when the last Monday in May was declared a federal holiday, that the day gained countrywide acceptance.
As a nation, we should be united in our celebration of Memorial Day. We need to remember those brave American heroes who served their country and who died for the freedom we enjoy. If it were not for them, we would probably be the political slaves of some foreign power.
The question for this Memorial Day is "What Should We Remember?" And I will begin to answer that question by saying that, first of all, we should remember that hundreds of thousands of men and women have died in the service of their country. It is not that they gave something of what they had. They gave all they had. They made the final, ultimate gift which is life itself. They were in love with life; they wanted to live. They dreamed of love, marriage, children, vocation and fulfilled ambition, but they gave them all up.
The great Hoover Dam project in the early 1930s brought water and fertility to vast areas that had once been desert. In the building of that dam, there were at least 112 men who lost their lives in accidents and disasters. When the dam was completed, a plaque was fashioned into the wall on the dam with this inscription: "These died that the desert might rejoice and blossom as the rose."
It could be said of all our fallen dead, that they died that our world might rejoice and freedom might blossom like the rose.
Yes, they died for their country. But there is something even more personal about Memorial Day. We should also be saying, "They died for us," even, "They died for me."
Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Approximately 117,000 killed in WWI, 407,000 in WW2, 33,600 in Korea, 58,000 in Viet Nam, 293 in the Gulf War, and 750 soldiers killed in the current Iraqi conflict. We should never forget that we live in freedom and prosperity because a soldier friend died for us.
What should we remember on this Memorial Day? We should remember the millions of American soldiers who risked their lives, many shedding blood, so that we can have a free Christian country. We should remember our parents and grandparents who fought the good fight to give us our well-being, our wealth, and our Christian Heritage. We should remember God's blessings in sending Jesus Christ, and the prophets and apostles. And remembering Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to free us from our sin, we should repent, and be renewed in our faith, and become a beacon of the gospel light to the generations who will come after us.
As we celebrate Memorial Day, may it further our resolve to keep the peace that has been won and make our world safe for freedom, justice, and human dignity. As we celebrate Memorial Day, let us remember, "Freedom is never free." Let us remember that many have given their "today" that we might have a tomorrow.