When we really step back and look at our lives here in America compared to other countries, it doesn’t take long to see countless blessings. We know all of these are from God’s grace. A significant aspect of giving thanks to God for such blessings is remembering those who have sacrificed their lives on our behalf and remembering their families as well.
Just over one million U.S. men and women have died during service in wartime and about 42 million people have served in the military in service to their neighbor. As Christians, we know that Memorial Day is not a religious holiday. It is, however, underestimated by Christians if known merely as a three-day weekend, the end of the school year, or the beginning of the camping season and the start of summer cookouts. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who died in service to our nation.
Although several cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, New York, was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966. Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear—Memorial Day was a product of the Civil War and a desire to honor the fallen. One documented case was in the spring of 1866 in Columbus, Mississippi. After an elderly mother had decorated with flowers the graves of her two sons killed in battle, she walked to the corner of the cemetery and placed her leftover flowers on the grave of an unknown Union soldier.
“What are you doing? That’s a union soldier’s grave!” yelled a Southerner. “Yes, I know that, but I also know that somewhere in the North a mother or young wife mourns for them as we do for ours,” responded the mother.
This compassionate and humbling deed of decorating military graves with flowers set into motion what became Decoration Day and then evolved to our current Memorial Day as we remember our nation’s military fallen.
In addition to remembering and reflecting on the fallen military veterans, we can show honor to the fallen by supporting and encouraging the living. One way to do this is through our new Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG). This newly-formed ELS & WELS veterans’ partnership is requesting each congregation to have a veteran liaison to lead initiatives for organizing ways to help military veterans and their families. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are especially good times to show your support through your volunteering or donations of support.
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Finally, please do remember in prayer and with thanksgiving those who are serving our country, those who have served, and their families.
Command Master Chief, USNR (Retired) D.E. Behr
Faith Lutheran Church