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Summary: To call attention to the roll of memorials as "memory aids" so that we will reflect and commit to appropriate action.

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The Gift of Memory

Ps 103:1-14

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Tomorrow marks the national observance of Memorial Day. All across America there will be the sound of marching feet, band music, and drums. In great cities and small towns, people will gather at a park or cemetery where speeches are given, prayers are said, taps are played, a salute is given, and guns a fired.

Its our way of saying thanks to those who died that we might continue to enjoy our liberties.

From Gettysberg to Berlin, from San Juan Hill to Heartbreak Ridge, from Iwo Jima to Saigon and Desert Storm, come the echoed cries of those who gave the best they had. The blood of American soldiers is permanently mingled with the soil of four continents.

Memorial Day or Decoration Day emerged from the shadows of the Civil War. In 1865, days after General Robert E Lee surrendered, a group of women in Vicksburg, Mississippi decorated the graves of the war dead. Three years later, May 30 was set aside for the placing of flowers on soldier’s graves throughout America.

Illus.: Incident at Arlington

When the first Memorial Day was celebrated, a group of women from Washington D.C. asked the War Department for permission to put flowers on the soldiers graves at Arlington Cemetery. After a lot of haggling, permission was finally granted to do so. But a stern order was attached to the permission. No flowers were to be placed on the graves of the Confederate soldiers who were buried in a segregated section of the cemetery. The ladies carried out their task, careful to follow these instructions. Then General James Garfield made a speech. When the crowds left, a strong wind arose. The wind blew almost all the flowers into the Confederate section. After that the separation was never repeated. Many believed that all this was due to divine intervention.

Since WWII, Decoration Day has honored the fallen dead of all our wars. We ought to honor those heroes of the past and remember that their lives were sacrificed for our freedom.

MOMENT OF SILENCE (Taps?)

Parents, perhaps this Memorial Day you might consider taking your children to some cemetery. Be sure they understand that others gave their lives in sacrifice for their freedom.

Memorial Day is all about REMEMBERING. Locked away, down deep inside your heart and mind is a treasure house full of memories and visions of the past that time can never erase.

Not all our memories are pleasant of course. Some are very sad—even bathed in tears. But there are happy memories too—recollections you wouldn’t exchange for any sum of money in the world.

Memory! What a wonderful gift! Without it we would stumble through a world of confusion, unable to profit form anything we had learned before. We wouldn’t even know that we could quench our thirst at a drinking fountain, or that a red traffic light means “stop” or that a mailbox is a place to mail a letter.

And yet we do forget! Even important things gradually fade away. That’s one reason why we have days set aside like Memorial Day. They’re memory aids. We need them so that we will not forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Newsweek, January 22, 2001, p. 12

Their hair is gray, their shoulders are slumped and they walk with the shuffle of the aged. Their ship, a rusty antique, wallowed through the Atlantic, battered by a winter storm. For the elderly crew of LST-325, a creaking World War II troop ship that had been taken out of service in 1946, it was the last chance to recapture their youth--and to preserve their exploits for future generations. Ironically, the U.S. Coast Guard deemed the voyage from Greece to Mobile, Alabama unsafe. The same daring that lead these men to ignore deadly enemy fire lead them to ignore the Coast Guard warnings. The ship, now safe at harbor in Alabama, will be the first memorial to the heroism of the amphibious land craft crews. The crew of WWII battled ancient equipment, 110 degree heat, cockroaches, governmental regulations and the death of a crewmember to secure the old vessel and make it seaworthy. "They tried to stop us at times, but we knew that we could do it." LST-325 will serve as a double-memorial to the men who served bravely under fire during the war, and then fought once again to reclaim her from the scrap heap.

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