Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial. Maybe because I grew up in the South. I don’t know why exactly, but Memorial Day has never been a holiday that touched my heart. Some years I share my birthday with Memorial Day; it just depends on how the dates fall.
I was educated in a system that seems to me now was in transition. I can remember with great clarity being taught about Jesus during Christmas in my public school in the first grade. I remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance and having a moment of silence at the start of every day. In the second grade I learned to sing our national anthem. Those memories are so different from the atmosphere in my later years of education. I was taught to question my government. I became a skeptic of the “system” and especially the President.
As I’ve come into adulthood, I’ve learned that my experiences related to patriotism are quite different than earlier generations. I’ve found myself in multiple conversations where I’m confused over the great passions that lie behind the words of others. I’ve often wondered in such conversations just what, exactly, is the big deal?
Friends, on this Monday Mayhem I want to share with you the big deal about Memorial Day, and it couldn’t be a more perfect addition to our series on SACRIFICE.
Let’s start with a bit of history, although I’ll keep it light, since I know some of you are trying to enjoy a three day weekend as a result of this fabulous holiday! Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, began after the Civil War to honor the great number of fallen soldiers. The first Decoration Day was celebrated in Waterloo, NY on May 5, 1866. The citizens of Waterloo closed their businesses and came together to decorate the gravesites of fallen soldiers. Eventually May 30th became the official Decoration Day and many states participated in honoring their fallen Civil War soldiers.
Almost a century later, due to the effects of world war, the United States Congress determined to make Decoration Day an official federal holiday. The holiday was renamed Memorial Day and dedicated to all fallen soldiers in any war, including the Revolutionary War. The last Monday in May was chosen in order to give federal employees a three day weekend. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed by Congress in 1968 and took effect in 1971.
End history lesson. Fast forward to the present.
For much of my adult life, this is how I’ve thought of Memorial Day:
Sales and neighborhood pool openings were the only real definition I had for Memorial Day. I really didn’t understand the cost that this special day represents.
On Friday I will talk more about counting the cost of sacrifice, but today I want to introduce you to some men who know the cost a little too well. These are men who have counted the cost because their brothers and sisters have paid the cost.
I had the pleasure of spending a recent Saturday morning with this group of men. Each of these men has served in the United States Military.
Senior Airman Steve Russell served in the Airforce during Vietnam.
Staff Sergeant Thomas Bruske served in the Airforce during Desert Shield Desert Storm.
Specialist Robert Copp served in the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Chief Master Sergeant Retired Stephen Jack served in the Airforce from 1973 – 1998.
Senior Airman Troy Soronen served in the Airforce during Desert Shield Desert Storm.
These men are pictures of sacrifice to me. They’ve sacrificed their time, their energy, their health in some cases. They’ve served in various operations and places around the world to ensure that I (and you) remain in a country where we can enjoy FREEDOM. Though today is NOT about honoring them, I can’t help but feel compelled to say thank you to them anyway. They represent a larger brotherhood of men and women who have sacrificed for our country.
Amongst that brotherhood are men and women who paid the highest cost of sacrifice. They gave their lives. Friends, as we sit enjoying our barbeques and swimming in our pools today, there are families grieving. For some people there aren’t enough discounts or coupons to make up the difference of the loss that Memorial Day represents.
So maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve celebrated a lifetime of Memorial Days, never counting the cost of a fallen soldier. Don’t be discouraged! Today’s as good a day as any to begin counting. Here’s a few things I intend to do this Memorial Day:
- Take flowers to a gravesite of a fallen soldier, and use that as an opportunity to teach my children what this day is all about.
- Be intentional about cherishing the moments I have with my loved ones today.
- Pray for those who have been less fortunate and must continue to sacrifice daily because their loved one never made it home to them.
I bet you can think of a way to honor fallen soldiers today. Will you hang a flag? Decorate a banner? Call someone who lost a loved one? There are many ways to honor those who have sacrificed for us.
In the words of my friends above: “All gave some, but some gave all.”
Now what will you and I give back?