Tag Archive | Memorial 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

Honoring Those Who Made The ULTIMATE Sacrifice

Tomorrow is our annual Memorial Day holiday.

What do you think of when you think of Memorial Day – the beginning of summer vacation, barbecues in the back yard, family get-togethers?

In most churches Memorial Day is generally ignored because it is not one of the holy days on the church calendar. But I think it would be good for us to think about what Memorial Day really represents – its very name calls us to remember.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day to honor and remember those who died in our nation’s military service. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873, and by 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. It is now celebrated on the last Monday of May.

However, it is not important when and where Memorial Day was first celebrated. What is important is that Memorial Day was established at all.

Unfortunately, traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans today have forgotten the meaning and traditions of “Memorial Day.” At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. This is very likely because we no longer have a mandatory military service, but basically a paid army. It is ironic that the United States is still engaged in a war after 13 years – the longest war in our nation’s history, and yet, this patriotic and important day established to honor soldiers living and dead, has lost much of its meaning. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades.

Not only do we salute and honor our military on Memorial Day, but also we celebrate our independence as a nation. Let us not forget that our independence was bought with a price—the price of blood on the battlefields. Thousands of men and women, supported by wives, mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers, fought for our freedom.

Think of the numbers of those who died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today:

    Revolutionary War – 25,324
    Civil War – 498,332
    World War I – 116,710
    World War II – 407,316
    Korean War – 54,546
    Vietnam War – 58,098
    First Gulf War – 293
    Iraq War – 55,000
    Afghanistan – 2,223

Over 1.1 million men and women have died to guarantee our freedom as Americans. Today we need to think about those who fought and have given their lives to ensure that we could enjoy the freedom we have.

Notice the number of people affected by earlier wars is greater than those who currently serve – just another sign that we are far removed from the sacrifices of war with a volunteer military.

When I was a child (a military brat), if we lived within 10 hours of where I was born, we went back to celebrate Memorial Day. We laid flowers on graves, put flags on those graves of soldiers, visited those who came back from wars, and celebrated their giving to this country with parades and cook-outs and church services.

There wasn’t a resident in our little town, and in every town in America that wasn’t affected by the wars – we all knew a neighbor, a schoolmate, a relative who went to war to serve their country. They may not have had any choice because they had been drafted but many went voluntarily.

They went,

    they fought,

      and not all came back.

    When they returned, the town joyfully greeted those came back and mourned those who were left on foreign soil or returned in body bags. The wars and those serving were part of their community.

    Jesus told us:

        Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

    and that is exactly what Jesus did. . .

    and exactly what our fallen soldiers have done.

    The Memorial Day holiday was established to honor those who served, are serving and, especially those who died while serving in the military.

    Please stand up if you have served or are currently serving in the military?

      To all who are serving or have served and survived, we thank you.

      (applause)

    How many of you had parents, fathers, uncles, aunts, mothers who served in World War II or Korea?

      For all who served to ensure that we would continue to enjoy the freedoms we have, we thank you.

      (applause)

    Would everyone who had a relative killed in a war stand up?

      For all who served and paid the ultimate price, we ask for them eternal rest and peace.

      (applause)

      To all family members whose loved ones gave their lives in the service of others, thank you for your own sacrifice.

      (applause)

    Let us pray:

    Dear God, please look with mercy on our brave and selfless brothers and sisters, who did not shirk from their task but gave themselves completely to the cause of defending and protecting us all. Bless all who have given their lives for the sake of liberty, and grant them eternal rest with You. We remember also our brave men and women now serving in our Armed Forces, both at home and abroad. Dear God, send out Your angels to protect them all. Help them discharge their duties honorably and well. Please bring them safely home to their families and loved ones. Please bring Your peace and mercy to our troubled world. We ask this, Father, in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

    Taps is often sung or played at the grave sites of our fallen heroes. Let us sit quietly as we hear this last respect shown those who have died to preserve our freedom.

    Day is done,
    gone the sun,
    From the hills,
    from the lake,
    From the skies.
    All is well,
    safely rest,
    God is nigh.

    Go to sleep,
    peaceful sleep,
    May the soldier
    or sailor,
    God keep.
    On the land
    or the deep,
    Safe in sleep.

    Love, good night,
    Must thou go,
    When the day,
    And the night
    Need thee so?
    All is well.
    Speedeth all
    To their rest.

    Fades the light;
    And afar
    Goeth day,
    And the stars
    Shineth bright,
    Fare thee well;
    Day has gone,
    Night is on.

    Thanks and praise,
    For our days,
    ‘Neath the sun,
    Neath the stars,
    ‘Neath the sky,
    As we go,
    This we know,
    God is nigh.
     
     
    Delivered at In The Garden Community Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 25 May 2014

    How Will People Remember You? (Sermon For Memorial Day)

    Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

    I just returned from spending five days with a dear friend in Chicago who suffered a massive stroke and is now in a coma, slowly moving toward death. He was a vibrant, active 64-year old man who was involved in lots of activities and projects. He went to bed Friday night expecting to wake on Saturday to work on more projects. Instead, he awoke paralyzed and unable to speak – medical science could not help – his earthly life is over – or nearly so.

    So, while we usually spend Memorial day honoring our military heroes and sheroes – today I want to encourage you to consider another type of Memorial Day – your own Memorial Day.

    When you leave this earthly life, how will you be remembered?

    I was reading about a man named Ben just came to town as a new rabbi. Unfortunately, his first official duty for his congregation was to conduct a funeral service for a man named Albert, who died in his eighties leaving no relatives.

      Since Ben didn’t know the deceased personally, he paused from his sermon at Albert’s funeral to ask if anyone in the congregation would say something good about Albert. There was no response. Ben asked again: “Many of you knew Albert for years, surely someone can say something nice.”

      After an uncomfortable pause, a voice from the back of the room said, “Well, his brother was worse.”1

    If you died tomorrow, what would people say about you?

    Would it make you proud of the way you lived your life and the choices you have made?

    What will your memorial be? If someone looks back on your life years from now, what will they remember about you?

    None of us probably will solve world peace, cure hunger or have our names in the history books of the future; what will likely happen is that we will be remembered solely by those whose lives have been touched by our actions, by how we affected their lives.

    There’s an old saying, “If you want to know how to live your life, think about what you’d like people to say about you after you die … and live backwards.” We earn our eulogy by our everyday choices:

      one day at a time,
      one choice at a time,
      one action at a time,
      one word at a time.

    What would you do, if you were that told you had 10 years to live?

    Would it change what you do with those days? Of course, it would. But what would you do differently in those days or years? Would you:

      Go wild, ‘party hearty’, ‘eat drink and be merry’, do just what you want to do: steal, speed, use drugs or alcohol?

      Would you become depressed and have a giant ‘pity party’ bemoaning your bad luck – bemoaning all the things you didn’t get to do or places you didn’t get to go?

      Would you ‘settle the score’ – seek out those who you feel have wronged you and let them have it? All the guys or gals who jilted you – the relatives who slighted you? The employers who cheated you?

    I believe that we are a product of what we have been over the past years. If we did little with our life in the past, then probably it would be more of the same–only intensified. If we lived a life of love and generosity, then we would probably continue that way. In fact, it’s my guess we would work to be the best we could be for the remaining 10 years, or even 10 days. We would:

      Stop to ‘smell the roses’- savor a bright sunny day, the beauty of oceans and woods, go visit a friend, play ball with a child, take flowers to a sick relative, watch a sunrise

      Perhaps we would spend less time fretting over money lost or possessions, or arguments with neighbors 0 and take time to apologize for hurts we have caused.

      Maybe we would tell our friends and family how much we love them, repay a debut, return something stolen, repair a broken relationship, return a favor

    In short, value our friendships more and work hard to do good and spread love – to help and uplift those around us.

    The love we have for those who are really important in our life would grow even more. We would start to really see more of the good things in this world, and less of the bad.

    We would care more about those in need, and help those who we can. We would not want to waste a single day, and would appreciate each day for what it is–a miracle. Would we stop learning and growing as a person? I don’t think so. If that’s who you were, you will continue to do the same.

    One area that might change is our spiritual life. Most of us don’t usually give much thought to the inevitable ‘life after death’ and what happens to us when we die. If told the end is near, then we usually are faced with thinking about it. Gaining a sense of oneness with our Creator is a comfort. Maybe it’s the most important thing anyone can do in this situation [or any situation].

    Would you fear this next stage of life?

    Or seek to know your Creator more and more through prayer, study, discussions with those you admire and trust?

    The money, titles, material things you achieve on this earth cannot go with you – only what your soul has learned and experiences will go with you to the next life. There is no lasting peace and comfort, with money, achievements, titles, hobbies or endless TV.

    So what would you do?

    In his book, When Everything You Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, Harold Kushner writes:

      “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.”

    What will people remember you for?

    We need to:

      Live to be remembered for the eternal things; how you have loved, served, healed and helped

      Live to be remembered for giving some of what you have for the benefit of others.

      Live for acts of kindness that lighten the load of those who are hurting and weary.

    Let us say together the Prayer of Saint Francis:

      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.

      O Divine Master, 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,
      and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

    Amen.
     
     
    1 Ray Lammie, Ray Lammie’s Thought for Today
    Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 26 May 2013