Since 1971, Memorial Day has been observed annually on the last Monday in May. The purpose is to honor the nationís military personnel killed in wartime.
The holiday first called Decoration Day, because people decorated soldiersí graves with flowers and flags on that day. Today it is marked by parades, memorial speeches, and ceremonies.
Waterloo, New York, was the birthplace of Memorial Day.
On May 5, 1866, the people of Waterloo placed flowers on the graves of northern soldiers who had died in the Civil War. In 1868, Major General John Logan declared May 30 as a day for honoring soldiers who had died fighting for the North. A lot of meaning attached to decorating graves.
After World War I ended, in 1918, Decoration Day became a day to remember everyone who died fighting in U.S. wars - the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. The observation now also includes World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
It has been said that one must die so that others may know the full value of life. We are given only one life to live. We never know when this life may end. Folks that have lost love ones in our wars know that life can be taken away in an instant. However, because we know that death will take place, we should have a high regard for human life. Were we all able to live forever and experience no losses, we would never fully appreciate the moments in life that make us truly happy. However, just as happiness is not free, the freedom to live life to its fullest has its costs as well.
When a soldier goes into battle, immediately he is stripped of any prejudices that befell him at home. He no longer is described according to his ethnic background, religious beliefs, or political affiliation. Instead, he is left with the title of an ďAmerican Soldier.Ē I cannot think of an honorable distinction than this. I know that every time I see one of our decorated men and women in public, I immediately hold them in the highest esteem.
Although you may see a soldier at a common restaurant eating dinner, or walking to an appointment in the city, it is undeniable that you must feel a sense of admiration for this person. As he or she walks past, children stare in awe and veterans salute. This respect is earned through the meaning that the uniform carries. It is not simply for show, to decorate with pretty ribbons and sashes. Instead, it is to show that personís dedication and willingness to serve. They serve every one of us by defending the nation in which we live today. Before adorning this uniform, they must swear an oath to protect the Constitution, the land, and the peoples of America from any and all enemies. To uphold this oath, they protect us with guns; they protect us with tanks; but most of all, they protect us with their lives.
Michael J. McClymond, writing for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, wrote in its December 2002 edition: "The total number of Christian martyrs during the 20th Century is reported at 45 million." He finished his though by defining Christian martyrs as "believers in Christ who lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility."
As Americans, our beliefs are rooted in and on the principles and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus is our supreme example of those who are willing to die in order that others may live. He had to die in order that we could live. Someone had to reveal tangibly and humanly how far God is willing to go in His identification with man. Someone had to show how much dark sin God is ready to forgive. Jesus became the sacrificed One. Just think how He loved life, how every blade of grass and pedal of a rose vibrated with life when He touched it. Think of His marvelous power over the universe He had created, and His pleasure at being able to control it.
Think of His compassionate love for people and His voluntary involvement in their every problem. When we think how much He must have wanted to keep living, and what a great life He had to offer a sick world, we stand amazed at His willingness to be a sacrifice for us. It always seems that those who have the most to live for are often the quickest to give up their lives. The most alert, sensitive, talented, and promising are usually the first to volunteer for the front line duty. The local police come to mind, they enter the police force knowing fully that every day they report for work could be their last, yet they do it for the service of others.
Jesus wanted to keep living, remember His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane? He asked God to remove the cup, Jesus bore the weight of His own cup of suffering, in confronting death He turned to God, and here we see the human nature and will of Jesus, He was as much flesh as any man, and so he begged God to choose another way other than the cup, if possible. However, Jesus knew ultimately Godís Will that will be done. Jesus knew of a higher calling, in fact, we all have a higher calling, one that requires sacrifice.
When we confess to be Christian, we need not take it lightly because to be Christian is to be Like Christ. This means willing to endure those things that Christ endured. He shed His precious blood in order that millions of His followers may have life, not just life on this earth, but also eternal life with Him in heaven.
God only knows how many more have shed their blood for the cause of Christ in the last two thousand years. It is fitting this we remember their sacrifice. Still, more fittingly, it is important we remember the One they believed in, who shed the purity of his blood for freedomís cause. For without the sacrifice or our Risen Lord, we in American would not enjoy the freedoms we love and know so well. Remember, America, while not perfect is a great place. We just need to believe in God, and make Him the center of our lives. God Bless America!