Published in the Rains County Leader on May 26, 2022:
We will celebrate Memorial Day on Monday. It’s a day that began in 1868 as a time to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers. It has evolved into a celebration of all who have served our country in any way. Although some still decorate graves with flags and attend services of remembrance, it has also become a celebration of the summer season that is only a few weeks away. One of my early columns was about the more serious side of Memorial Day, and I’d like to share it with you this week.
Memorial Day is a day of hope and remembrance, of remembering those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Why is remembrance important – and what is our hope?
Some of the stories we remember are of epic proportions, involving thousands of troops and tons of metal that was fashioned into war machines of all kinds. The stories that move us most, though, are the individual stories of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and the loved ones who love and miss them.
We also remember the sacrifices of those who didn’t lose their lives. My brother Jim came home physically whole after a year in Vietnam, but he missed most of the first year of his oldest son’s life. David spent eleven years in the Navy including two tours in Vietnam. He, too, escaped physical injury but came home to a wife who no longer wanted to be married to a man who spent six months at a time at sea. Others came home with physical and emotional wounds that changed their lives.
Remembering has been important to the human race from the beginning. Ancient rulers built monuments to themselves to insure that their lives and accomplishments would not be forgotten when their physical lives came to an end. God emphasized the importance of remembering when He instructed the Israelites again and again to pile up stones so when their children later asked about the piles, the stories would be re-told and everyone would remember. Most importantly, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a way of remembering His sacrifice.
Several things happen when we remember. We are reminded of how we got where we are and at what cost. We honor the wise decisions and daring deeds of those who went before, and hopefully we are made aware of previous mistakes, and we learn from them. In remembering and honoring and learning, we somehow give meaning to the lives that have been given and taken.
We honor our loved ones in the hopes of keeping the memories of their lives and their sacrifices alive. We remember the horrors of war in the hope of learning a better way to live.
Thank you to all who served and sacrificed, whether in the service or at home. We remember.