No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 HCSB)
First celebrated on May 30, 1868, Memorial Day has changed dramatically in its appearance over the past 144 years. Originally set aside as a date following the Civil War on which each side could remember their fallen it was changed again following World War I as national day to remember all of our nation’s fallen and a day on which all of the graves of those who died supporting freedom would be cared for.
Traditionally celebrated on May 30 since its initial proclamation, Congress decided in 1971 to move the observance of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May so as to insure everyone got a three-day weekend. And therein lies what may be the biggest downfall of Memorial Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love a three-day weekend but what used to a single day set aside to for the singular purpose of remembering sacrifice has instead become an excuse for an extra long weekend of parties, cookouts, trips to the beach, and yard work. I am thankful for the 1200 or so soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the “Old Guard” who place small flags at the graves of the more than 260,000 men and women buried at Arlington National Cemetery and spend their holiday weekend, Thursday through Monday, patrolling the grounds 24-hours a day to make sure each of those flags remain upright. I am thankful too for the Boy and Girl Scouts who each year spend their holiday weekends tending the graves of veterans at national cemeteries around this nation. Were it not for these soldiers and scouts, and of course those friends and family members who have been personally touched by death’s sting, many of the those who died for freedom and are buried in our U.S. soil would be forgotten on account of this three day weekend that was originally set aside to make sure we didn’t. Neither should we forget those who have served and death has spared but who have still given so much of themselves for our freedoms. There truly is no greater love.
Just as many of you would not think twice about letting Christmas pass without reading the Christmas story from scripture and sharing with your children the true meaning of holiday, and the same of Easter, I challenge you also to take time today to share with your children and reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Don’t let the American flag you hang outside your home mean nothing more than of the Christmas tree you put in your living room. Celebrate your freedom today, but also remember the fallen. At 3pm today, stop along with the rest of the nation for the National Moment of Remembrance; “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.” How I wish more Americans truly knew or understood the heart wrenching emotion felt during the playing of Taps that comes only with knowing personally the sacrifice which it represents.
With everything else you have planned this weekend, please don’t forget today is Memorial Day.