In 1863 some women in Columbus, Mississippi went out to the local cemetery to place flowers on the graves of the Confederate soldiers. They noticed a section of the cemetery had graves for Union soldiers. They placed flowers on those graves also. They honored the dead soldiers and offered prayers for the families.
A couple of years later, Henry C. Welles in Waterloo, New York, closed his drug store on May the 5th and invited the entire community to honor the soldiers who had given their lives. They also placed flowers on graves and flew the flag at half-staff. Many communities participated. This was first known as Decoration Day. At the end of World War I, the memorial emphasis was shifted to people who had given their lives in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a National Holiday by an Act of Congress.
Memorial Day is designated to recognize those who have paid the supreme price in their military service. It is not just a legal holiday where people enjoy family outings and barbeque bashes – it’s a day to remember. Remembering is something many of us are not very good at doing. It takes no effort to forget – it takes a lot of energy to remember (Tweet this).
For many years, Frank Harrington served as senior minister of the Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. He once told about a friend who was traveling in England. His car broke down, and while he was waiting for the car to be repaired, he decided to walk around the small town.
In the corner of an old and quaint cemetery, he noticed a stone wall. In that enclosed area were 50 graves of young men between the ages of 17 and 25. The men were from New Zealand, and they had died in that village during World War I. At the entrance to the area was a marker with this inscription – “We shall never forget in this village their sacrifice.” This triggered the imagination of the visitor, so he wanted to find out what these young men had done. He walked around the village seeking an explanation for their valiant service. Nobody knew! When he asked, all the villagers looked at him with quizzical expressions on their faces. The village – which had promised to remember – had forgotten.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses talks a lot about all the blessings of God. He tells about how we drink from wells we did not dig and eat fruit from trees we did not plant. Then comes a stern warning – “Be careful lest we forget” (Deut. 6:11-12).
The 2016 graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point will be given graduation rings. Each ring will contain small amounts of steel from the World Trade Center. It will be a graphic, constant reminder to them of the 9/11 terror attack on this country. The ring will help them remember.
Freedom isn’t free. We stand on the shoulders of over 1.1 million people who have given their lives for our freedom. While today we see many people in this country who do not honor our history and our flag, that does not take away from the honor and sacrifice of people who gave their lives. No greater sacrifice has been given for us than for those brave men and women, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, who have paid the ultimate price with their lives. Celebrate Memorial Day for its real meaning.
2 Peter 1:12, 15 says, “I plan to keep on reminding you of these things even though you already know them and are really getting along quite well . . . hoping to impress them so clearly upon you that you will remember them long after I have gone.”
Remember – remember – remember this Memorial Day.