Summary: This message is a perosnal reflection of the importance of remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of this country fulfilling what Jesus said in John 15:13.
Memorial Day 2019
Scriptures: John 15:13
This morning I want to break from my normal and share with you why we should take a moment and reflect on why we celebrate Memorial Day as this is the day we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice – their life - for our freedom. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) I want you to think about these words this weekend because this is why we are celebrating Memorial Day tomorrow.
On July 30, 1981 I left my home in Columbia, Tennessee and boarded a bus for Nashville, Tennessee. When I arrived in Nashville I was taken to a military depot where I was registered and later placed on an air plane that would take me to San Antonio, Texas. When I arrived in San Antonio late that night, I was taken to Lackland Air Force Base where I would spend six weeks in basic training for the United States Air Force. During basic training I learned all of the basics of military life, some of which have stayed with me for the last thirty-seven plus years. During basic training we were taught how to dress, clean, shower, march, make our beds, etc. The primary focus of our training though was discipline and how to operate as a team. You see, this was drilled into us early so that regardless of the position we ever found ourselves in after basic training, we would support one another, especially if we were on a battlefield.
During basic training we learned that the greatest sacrifice that one could possibly give in our service for our country was our life. We all understood that this could one day be a part of our future. When I became a Non-Commissioned Officer, this was drilled into us because we were leaders of others and the day could come when an order we gave could cost someone their life. We were to be leaders whom others would willingly follow, even to their death. Both my father and brother served in the military. I have uncles, cousins and close friends who also served in the military. While we all served in different branches, we all took the same oath, which required us to “solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." This oath set the stage for our lives in the military. Through this oath we became part of a unit (family) where the lives of others were more important than our own.
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. In 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo, which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866, was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Being a medic in the Air Force I witnessed people dying as a part of my job so my view of Memorial Day might be a little different from yours. However, many people have not served in the military and many of our young people do not understand the need to remember those who have died serving this country. This morning I want to share four stories with you to help you understand the commitment required when someone chooses to enlist in the military and possibly make the ultimate sacrifice to save others. For those of you who have never served, it’s important for you to know that when you enlist in the military you choose to give up some of the freedoms that you have as a civilian. As a civilian you can come and go as you please. As a military person, you come and go as you are told. I am not saying this figuratively, this is real. It is a true statement that your family life comes second to your military life. Being in the military and/or a family member of someone serving on active duty requires an understanding that the needs of “Uncle Sam” outweigh the needs of your family in some situations. I want you to keep this in mind as you listen to the four stories I will share this morning because in my opinion, these stories fulfill what Jesus said in John 15:13.