Of all the national holidays, Memorial Day is perhaps the most somber. Each year, Americans pause to remember those who have died in service of our country, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect the American people.
Traditionally, Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day,” a holiday that honored fallen Union soldiers in the years following the Civil War. As the commemoration evolved, it was adopted as a national holiday and was expanded to include all service members who died in every American war, past and future.
Today, Memorial Day is solemnly celebrated by placing flags on the graves of every service member. Many cities and towns across the United States hold ceremonial events, honoring their fallen soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors. At 3 p.m. nationally, Americans are encouraged to hold a Moment of Remembrance, pausing in silent reflection to remember the sacrifice of fallen members of the United States Armed Forces.
For many Americans, the loss of a loved one in service of the country is still fresh. Some have given a son or daughter. Others have been deprived of a parent. Many have lost friends, their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. Their losses must not be forgotten.
A sacrificial death is not taken lightly in the United States. Fallen service members are given the highest respect and the greatest honor. The Bible’s poignant words illustrate the universal notion held on Memorial Day: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Memorial Day serves as a moving reminder to Americans that to live in freedom, there must be a price.
Perhaps the nineteenth century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow best captured this reverence in his poem, “Decoration Day”:
Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry’s shot alarms!
Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon’s sudden roar,
Or the drum’s redoubling beat.
But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.
All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!
Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
This Memorial Day, let us hold onto that memory of all the heroic Americans we have lost and remember to thank those still fighting for our safety and our country’s bright future.
Written by Jenna