On Monday, May 29, 2017, as a country, we will recognize one of our most – if not the most – misunderstood national holidays… Memorial Day.
Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day after The Civil War in 1868. It was originally the day that people were encouraged to “decorate” the headstones of Union soldiers who had died in the Civil War. In 1968, President Johnson signed into law that Memorial Day would officially always fall on the last Monday of May on the federal calendar.
Somewhere along the way since then, Memorial Day changed in how it was designated by American citizens… it is still officially designated as a day of remembrance for all who have given their lives in military service for our great country. Somehow though, it changed culturally from a day of remembrance to a day that kicks off the summer season. It and Labor Day are kind of seen as the bookends of summer. Probably it has to do far more with three-day weekends than it has to do with lack of respect or care… but the reality is, regardless of the reason behind the shift away from honoring those who paid the highest price for each and everyone of us, our country has strayed very far away from our foundation of respect and honor for those who have given their lives in military service.
A friend of mine who is a veteran said that he loves the chance for their family to gather together on Memorial Day weekend – to enjoy one another’s company, to cookout, to enjoy their time together… but that they also take time to remember those who made this weekend and every weekend possible.
A few years ago we – my wife and kids and I – started a tradition to go to a cemetery near our home. We take flowers and my kids look for headstones that designate military service but that look like no one may have visited it in a very long time… sometimes the stones are very old – perhaps with no family members still living nearby… And we clear away the weeds and debris and we lay flowers on their grave and we thank God for the person that stone memorializes… we thank God for the men and women who have all sacrificed so much for us… Not because the person’s remains who are laid in that grave need us to – but because it is important for my kids to know, and for me to be reminded, the great price others have paid on our behalf and that we do not take it for granted.
May this Memorial Day serve as a reminder for each of us to what Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Thank you Father for the blessing of living in this great country where my freedoms are many. Thank you for the heart and dedication of so many men and women who have laid down their lives in the defense of me and my family. May their families experience your peace and healing on this Memorial Day. May those who live in places today with no freedom, who face oppression even to death for their belief in you, experience your peace beyond all understanding. May we honor the life and death of your son. May we follow His example of loving one another and putting others ahead of ourselves. May you be glorified in all things through us your creation. Amen.
May you and your families experience peace this Memorial Day and all of your days.