Summary: 2006 Memorial Day Sermon
(1) 22 years ago next month, President Ronald Reagan, gave what I think is one of the best ‘Memorial Day’ speeches ever given. It was on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of France that led to the destruction and ultimate surrender of Nazi Germany.
It in he said, “We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.
Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers [at] the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing.
Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.
Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. “
As we remember this Memorial Day weekend, I call your attention to verse 6 of our main text. ‘We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask, (2) ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ It is a meaningful question to ask this day and this weekend because in our text it is a question that will be asked by the generations which follow those who witnessed and participated in the crossing of the Jordan River and the beginning conquest of the Promised Land.
It is a question that is also appropriate to reflect on this time of year with Memorial Day at our doorstep because millions of us have taken time, or will take time, to visit and decorate the graves of those who have served our nation, especially those who gave their lives in times of war for the freedoms and benefits we enjoy today.
Why should we remember those who have died on our behalf? What are the reasons for remembering those who have sacrificed not just for our country but for our faith as well?
Here are several reasons to remember that I would like for you to consider this day and this weekend.
(3) Reason number one: We remember because it is through others that freedom and faith have come.
The gentleman on the left is my Grandfather Kane, Army Air Corps, World War I. He did not make it to France in time for the war as it ended while he was en route. But he was willing to do his part to serve as needed and necessary for his country.
The lady in the middle was his wife, my grandmother. Both of them were people of great faith and I have recently acknowledged the role my grandmother has had in my own faith development.
The gentleman on the right is my late father. That’s his Army graduation photo. He was drafted in 1951 and went to Korea, 2nd Infantry Division. He saw action on the frontlines. He had a flame thrower blow up in his face as his buddy, who had the dangerous assignment of being his company’s flame thrower, was cleaning it in a tent they were in.
Dad made serving this nation a career and spent nearly 30 years in Civil Service at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
It is people, known and unknown to us (but known to God), that we remember this weekend because it is people, believing in ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ that has made the further pursuit of this ideal possible.