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