Summary: A Public Memorial Day Observance Address.
[From time to time I am asked to give a public address at a Memorial Day gathering. This was delivered at such a gathering on Memorial Day 2008.]
Remembering Our Soldiers - A Public Memorial Day Celebration
Today is “Memorial Day”. It is more than just another holiday. It is more than just a day off from work. It is more than a day that we can go to the lake or a day that we can have a barbeque. It is “Memorial Day.” It is a day set aside to remember those who have given their lives for the freedom that we as Americans all share. Freedom has never come cheaply.
More than a million Americans have died in wars fighting for the freedom that we enjoy today. In the Civil War, 498,000 Northern soldiers were killed, and 133,000 soldiers from the South died. In World War One, 116,000 American soldiers died. In World War Two, 407,000 American soldiers died. 54,000 American soldiers died in Korea, 58,000 died in Vietnam, 148 died during Desert Storm. As of May 21, 2008 there were 4,079 American Soldiers that have died in Iraq. Of course there were conflicts and causalities as well. More than a million Americans have died in wars around the world fighting for the freedom that we enjoy in this country.
We have the freedom to vote for our leadership in this nation. We have the freedom to debate who one should vote for – or not to vote for. We even have the freedom to poke fun at those who are running office and we have the freedom to say our peace when they win.
We also have the freedom to worship – or not to worship as we please. But let me say it again – freedom has never been free.
And so we gather today to remember.
As a United States Army Chaplain, I can tell you that not all the countries of the world enjoy the same freedom that we in American enjoy. I have been to Middle East and I have seen how people live there. Their definitions of justice and freedom are not the same as ours. Believe me when I say that oppression is still rampant in many parts of the world. We as Americans enjoy the freedom that we have because someone has paid the price for that freedom – freedom is not free but it comes with a price. We who are gathered here today realize this fact and we pause on this day to remember.
As a student of the scriptures I have looked in the Bible and have found that the words “remember”, “remembrance”, and “memorial” are found there more than 230 times. God reminded his children in the Old Testament to remember that they were once salves in Egypt. He also commanded his people to observe certain days as days of “remembrance”. In the New Testament Jesus said that every time we approach the His Table we are to do it in remembrance of Him.
Today, on this very day in America, people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and faiths are joining together to remember the sacrifice that our service men and women – in wars past and present – have made so that we can enjoy our freedom. Those brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can gather here and remember. And we do – remember.
The Bible says: “No one has greater love than this – that one would lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 Our service men and women have been willing to do that very thing since the founding of our nation.
Many of you here today are veterans and I am honored to be able to speak to you today. You all have had friends and relatives who have served our country with distinction. I pray that on this Memorial Day that you would remember them – that you would honor them with your thoughts.
But before I leave today I want you to remember one other soldier. His name was Matt Maupin. He grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. He saw the images of 9-11 on the television – just as you and I did and his sense of patriotism played a big part of him enlisting in the Army Reserve in 2002. At six-foot-two, 220 pounds, with a boot size fifteen, Matt stood as a gentle giant of a man. He served in the 724th Transportation Company out of Bartonville, IL. Matt was reported MIA – Missing In Action – April 9, 2004.
A familiar term associated with military families is “resilience”. It means to spring back – rebound in the face of adversity. For almost four years his parents Keith and Carolyn worked tirelessly to ensure that the search for Matt and four other missing soldiers remained in the public eye. They founded the Yellow Ribbon Support Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. They sent care packages to deployed service members. They provided moral support and encouragement to deployed troop and families. They truly showed “resilience.”