Monday is Memorial Day. It is a day for Americans to remember all of the heroes who gave their lives in the service of our country. It was around the time of the Civil War that people on both sides of that awful conflict, mostly women, made a special effort to decorate the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers, even if they were the enemy. That is why this national holiday was originally called Decoration Day.
There is something about placing flowers on a grave that spurs our memories. My husband and I regularly visit the places where family members are buried and remember them. The ritual is important to us. We all want to be be remembered and remembering is part of the responsibility of the living.
God gave us the gift of memory. God told Moses to remember His commandments and teach them to the children. God also made a special point of having the nation of Israel remember important parts of their history, like when they escaped from slavery in Egypt. In keeping with this Passover tradition, Jesus told his followers to remember His last meal with them. In more recent times, the phrase "Never Forget" is used to remind us of the horrors of the Holocaust and to not allow them to be repeated. Remembering our history, even when we didn't know the people involved, is important.
So this Memorial Day, I would like to encourage you to reclaim the tradition of Decoration Day. Find in your community or local cemetery a memorial to the men and women who lost their lives creating or preserving the liberty we hold so dear - and decorate it. Take a flag or a flower. Spend a moment thinking about their sacrifice and your benefit. Be grateful. Be humble.
I live in a town called Bradenton in Florida. Within walking distance of my home there is a memorial to the veterans of World War I at the city pier. The plaque reads: "Memorial Pier Dedicated to World War Veterans 1930." Please notice, they didn't expect World War II. There are memorials to all Veterans and the Confederacy at the County Courthouse. There are memorials for those lost their lives in all wars, including Vietnam, Korea and World War II at the Veterans Park near the hospital which itself was originally named the Manatee Veterans Memorial Hospital. The hospital was built in 1953 and on the back of a picture postcard of it, it says: "A Memorial to Manatee County Veterans of all Wars. Contributed by the public of Manatee County." There is nothing yet in our community for the fallen in the Gulf War or the ongoing wars on terrorism. Perhaps someday, but we should still never forget.
Since this part of Florida wasn't really settled until the mid-1800s, there aren't graves of those who died in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Indian Wars or the Mexican American War but your community might have some. Think about all of the wars Americans have fought in since our founding. If you don't remember (or were never taught!) what they are, here is a list with the numbers of dead and wounded from the Department of Veterans Affairs: https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf
So this Memorial Day, spend some time remembering. Read through the list of America's Wars and rather than think not about the numbers, think about the soldiers themselves and what they went through. Think of them as citizens, like you, fighting for their country. Think of them as husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who laid down their lives for a cause greater than themselves. Decorate the graves and memorials of those who have died to keep us free. Find some way this Memorial Day to remember, really remember, those men and women who died for you.
Let's Make America Good Again by not forgetting our past.