Tag Archive | Decoration Day

Memorial Day 2017

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, a day of remembrance. Memorial Day began to honor and celebrate Union Soldiers who died serving their country during the Civil War. After the end of World War I, Memorial Day was extended to include all American men and women who died serving their country in any military action or war.

On Memorial Day people often read a poem honoring fallen veterans or look up their family history and honor those in their family who have served our country. Many people go to the cemeteries and put American flags on veteran’s graves, that’s why it was known as Decoration Day for a while.

It is important for us to honor our veterans. Service in the military changes your life; men and women give the best years of their lives to our country. Some give the ultimate sacrifice but all sacrifice whether in peace or times of war. Never forget those who made that sacrifice for us and our freedom. Today is a day to remember men and women who died while serving their country. Statistics say that over 37,000,000 men and women have served our country since its existence with over 640,000 men and women giving up their lives for you and me.

On this special holiday, if you are or have served in our armed forces please stand. We thank you for your service.

If you have a spouse/partner/parent who served, please stand. You may not have served, but ‘those serve who also stand and wait’. Let us recognize these people and thank them for their service, loyalty and patriotism.

And yet even with a national holiday, we are still a forgetful people. The phrase ‘out of sight out of mind’ applies to us most of the time. But right now, we have over 2,266,883 men and women serving in some branch of military service, including reserves. Over 6,000 have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq; 44,266 have been wounded. War is not a pleasant thing, and most people would like to forget.

But we cannot and must not forget those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. . . for each one of us.

The meaning of this day has been lost… it is more than an excuse to fire up the grill, have a picnic, get together with family. Though we forget, take it for granted and perhaps treat the day lightly, the sacrifices of the men and women who have fallen have provided us with many things. Let me point out only three of those things.

Liberty

Of the many things the deaths of our soldiers provide us, liberty is the greatest. Those freedoms don’t come freely, but at a great cost. These brave people fought to give us the greatest country on earth. They fought and some died to ensure that we could have the freedom to speak our minds, to travel where we wish, to vote for representative government. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Security

Every night we go to bed in the safety of my own dwelling, whatever that is, while wars are fought on foreign soil. Our autos will not be blown up, we’re not going to face bombers on the way to work, no missiles flying overhead, no chaos in the streets. We have lost our stomach for war – but let that war rage on the streets of this nation, in our neighborhoods, on this home front…let the bombing and shooting and kidnapping and beheading take place in this land and we’ll be reminded of the safety and security we enjoy. . . all because some men and women chose to serve to make us more secure.

Peace

Because we have liberty and security, we live in a time of peace. There may be dissension between special interests in the country, but we still are at peace. We are a nation so at peace we are oblivious to the terror and turmoil most people in the world face on a daily basis. We can sleep at night in peace, we can have our coffee here at In The Garden in peace – we need to thank a solider for that. It is because they have given their lives we enjoy the peaceful lives we do, lives no one else on earth has like we do in America.

This Memorial Day, we should not only honor those who gave everything in service to our country, but continue to share their stories and give voice to the heroes who can no longer speak for themselves. I think the best way we can honor the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom is to live lives worthy of their sacrifice. There are many other things we enjoy at the expense of the lives of our soldiers, so today we want to honor their courage, their valor, their sacrifice by simply saying “Thank You” for what they have given to us.

Let us pray:

We pray today for those who have suffered and sacrificed in service to their country.

We honor the sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who have died, and for their loved ones, who still suffer.

We pray for those who are injured, especially those poorly cared for.

We pray for those whose who are injured in heart or mind or soul.

We pray for those whose spirits died when they were forced to witness or commit horrible things.

We pray for homeless veterans, for addicts and suicides and vets haunted by PTSD, for they too are casualties of our way of war.

We pray for those who have served who are lonely, who are sad, who are guilty or ashamed.

We pray for those who are proud but unappreciated.

We pray for healing for all those who bear the wounds we choose others to suffer and to inflict.

And we pray for those of other nations, too.

God bless all who have suffered and sacrificed: may they know healing, grace, and deep peace.

Amen.

 

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 28 May 2017

Let Us Remember (Memorial Day)

Tomorrow is the official commemoration of Memorial Day. Many people see it as just a 3-day weekend. But for those who have lost someone because of war or military action, it means much more than a day off. In fact, every American ought to recognize this day to honor of those who spilled their blood to make America what she is today. We tend to forget that the liberties we have today came at the cost of people’s lives. And most people forget to remember these sacrifices.

Memorial Day was originally begun by former slaves on May, 1, 1865. The ceremony was held in Charleston, SC to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. Former slaves dug up the bodies and worked for 2 weeks to give them a proper burial. Then they held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 black children marching through the streets celebrating the sacrifice of these men.

The first official Memorial Day was celebrated a few years later. A group of women asked the War Department for permission to put flowers on the graves of soldiers buried at what is now Arlington National Cemetery. Permission was finally granted, but a stern order that ‘no flowers were to be placed on the graves of the Confederate soldiers.’ The confederates were buried in a segregated section of the cemetery.

The ladies carried out their task and carefully followed their instructions. A crowd gathered for the commemoration at which General Ulysses S. Grant gave a speech. But shortly after the ceremony concluded, they say a strong gust of wind blew through the cemetery… and the wind blew almost all the flowers into the Confederate section. After that the separation was never repeated. Many believed that the wind had sent by the hand of God.[1]

Now, how many of you knew that about Memorial Day? How many of you knew that Memorial Day began as a way of honoring the dead from the Civil War?

Me neither! – until I began research for this homily.

Most people do not know that Memorial Day was begun after the Civil War, and don’t know that Memorial Day has since been set aside to honor the dead of all American wars since that date. It is marked by parades, speeches, flags and flowers placed on graves, and was originally called ‘Decoration Day’. As a child, my family used to gather to place flowers on graves and then have a picnic on the grounds of the cemetery (in some places, there are picnic benches and places to sit in the cemetery). We were taught that it was important to honor those who died, giving us the freedom we now have.

But, today, it’s like most of the nation has forgotten WHY Memorial Day was established. One person on Facebook joked that many think it is National Barbecue Day! People tend to be forgetful, especially when the impact of the current ‘wars’ are minimal. But we need to jog their memories to remember those who gave their lives for our safety!

A fallen hero can be defined as someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including their life.

In John 15:3 we are told by Jesus

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The people we remember on Memorial Day not only gave up their lives for their friends, but for people they didn’t even know, and even for those they didn’t even like. That is true sacrifice.

And because these men and women have died for this country,

  • we have the right to worship as we wish
  • we have the right to live at peace in our own homes
  • we have the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness as we wish
  • we have the responsibility to seek peace in the world.

How many of you were in the military at some point in your life?

I am an Air Force brat, and I know that you share with me the grief of having lost friends in wars. Nothing can ever replace the feeling of loss and anger as we attend the funerals of our friends. I can’t image the feeling of loss on the battlefield, when the person next to you makes that ultimate sacrifice.

But, those who have fought and survived, as well as the rest of us, need to remember that war and killing are wrong! We were not put here on this earth to kill each other. In my humble opinion, World War II was the last ‘just war’. Every other conflict since then has been based on greed and personal gain for a few. It is time to stop these aggressions.

Instead, we are instructed again and again by Jesus to love one another,

Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

Especially

love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44)

The one and only thing that Jesus kept teaching is LOVE!

Not hate, . . .

not greed, . . .

not privilege.

Saint Francis wrote a prayer that sums it up; take a quiet moment and listen to his words:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

So we must work for peace in our little corner of the world.

In closing, I want to tell you about the ‘Coin Tradition’.

coin traditionWhen a living soldier visits the grave of a fallen hero, they leave a coin on the headstone. If they leave a penny, it means they visited the grave. If they leave a nickel, it means they trained with this person; a dime signifies that they served together. Leaving a quarter is the most significant tribute, not only to the living, but also for the families of the fallen. It means that they were there when that soldier was killed. This is why, when you visit cemeteries with soldier’s graves, there are always coins on them. Someone cared enough to visit and leave a small token of respect for others to see.

And because these fallen soldiers died for us, that we have a responsibility to remember them on this Memorial Day. Go to parades, barbecues, celebrations,

But remember our fallen heroes and sheroes.

Let us pray:

We give you thanks, O Lord, for all who have died that we may live, for all who endured pain that we might know joy, for all who made sacrifices that we might have plenty, for all who suffered imprisonment that we might know freedom. Turn our deep feeling now into determination, and our determination into deed, that as men and women died for peace, we may live for peace for the sake of the Prince of Peace, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[1]  Bruce Howell, SermonCentral.com

 Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 29 May 2016