Summary: A community Memorial Day address.
We Have Much to Remember
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: Memorial Day grew out of the human need to remember where we have been. Only then can we figure out where we are going. The cherished memories of a nation, a town, a church, or a family provide the values and dream that one generation passes on to the next. Forgetting means dropping the torch. We have much to remember!
All of this was on the mind of President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 as he made his way to the Pennsylvania battlefield. He feared that he might be the last president of the United States. The country teetered on the brink of self-destruction. The ceremony that afternoon would dedicate the site of the cemetery for the over forty thousand soldiers killed at Gettysburg in the three-day battle the previous July. Lincoln’s remarks provided the seedbed for what would become Memorial Day.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” he began. Less than two minutes later, he concluded, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here (referring to the sacrifice of the soldiers). It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Over the next few years, many communities set aside special days to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. Some services were held with little fan fare. Others involved marching bands and speeches. All included decorating soldier’s graves with flowers and flags. Most towns referred to the event as Decoration Day. After World War I the day expanded to honor the American heroes of all wars. Gradually the custom of decorating the graves of relatives and friends became a part of the day. Eventually the official name was changed to Memorial Day. Originally, the day always fell on May 30. In 1971 congress moved the date to the last Monday in May.
Why Memorial Day? Because we don’t want to forget. But we know we do. Memorial Day is one generation’s attempt to help the next generation to remember the lives, the legacies, and the lessons of those upon whose shoulders we stand. We want to remember men and women who paid for our freedom with their blood. We have much to remember.
We need to remember that freedom is never free. The poet immortalized those sentiments in these lines.
“I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
at the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.....
No -- Freedom isn’t free!!”
(Freedom Isn’t Free, Author: Unknown)
We have much to remember!
We need to remember the freedom-loving patriots who birthed this nation almost two hundred thirty years ago. Consider the fifty-seven men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Those men were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. Most were soft-spoken men of means and education. Twenty-five were lawyers or judges. Nine were farmers or plantation owners. Eleven were merchants. The patriot group also included physicians, educators, and a musician, a printer and one minister. Several were sons of pastors. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Despite the danger, they defiantly penned their names beneath the words: "For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Everyone paid a price for our liberty. The British captured and brutally tortured five as traitors. Nine died from wounds or hardships they suffering fighting in the War for Independence. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Two had sons captured. At least a dozen had homes pillaged. (SOURCE: "John Shepler’s Writing in a Positive Light. Citation: http://www.execpc. com/~shepler /memorialday .html; information also found in numerous other anonymous pieces.)