The Memory Shall Be Ours

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

Image credit: https://www.facebook.com/DallasBaptistUniv/photos/a.450863583752.238790.43443903752/10153678659003753/?type=3&theater

Remember the Pilgrims!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I get really excited. Ridiculously excited, one could say. Autumn is without a doubt my favorite season of the year, and it only gets better when a holiday is thrown into the middle of it.

Of course, the Pilgrims did not have the same kind of holiday that we do today. They did not travel for hours on an airplane to visit family, nor were they likely to have pumpkin pie. This is a sad truth, I know. But in order to fully appreciate such a special day, we must look at its historical context. How did we get our modern day of thanks from such a humble beginning?

The most obviously wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is probably the sheer abundance of food. I wish I could invite everyone in the world to my family’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, because my mother’s classic turkey dinner with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie is delightfully scrumptious! Yet food, although it is essential to any family reunion, does not create a holiday all by itself.

The Pilgrims were simply celebrating the fact that they had food at all. When was the last time you were actively grateful for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you eat between classes every Tuesday and Thursday? When was the last time you stood in front of a full pantry and thanked God for it instead of moaning about how “nothing sounds good”?

Many Americans use the week of Thanksgiving to take a break from school or work and travel long distances to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, or that crazy cousin who only shows up for the food. In most cases, this is a time to catch up on the latest news and laugh together, enjoying each others’ company.

Unfortunately, the Pilgrims did not have that either. Half of their small number had died in the previous months, and going back home just to see their loved ones was nigh impossible. Yet they still celebrated, because while they were few, they were alive. When was the last time you were thankful to open your eyes in the morning and greet your bleary-eyed roommate?

Even the holiday’s position as a sort of bridge to Christmas seems rather unfounded. Were the Pilgrims eagerly awaiting the day’s end so they could start playing winter carols and making wish lists? Far from it, most likely; I would imagine that the day after the first Thanksgiving feast was just like any other day, filled with tending to the fields and doing laundry. The continued absence of Santa Claus reigned.

If not Christmas, then, what did the Pilgrims have to live for? Another year of hardships and trials? Not at all. They looked forward to the future, as well. They could be grateful because they were assured of God’s providence and strength as they moved forward. They could thank Him for every extra breath they took, for the food they finally had to eat, and for the gift of His Son, who assured them that their loved ones who hadn’t survived were in a better place.

What would happen if Americans today prioritized our lives like this, even just for one day? What if we stepped off the whirlwind that has become our lives and remembered God’s blessings of breath and life, His omnipresence, and his loving control over every situation we face? What if we thanked Him for the people we see every day as well as for our far-away friends and family? I think we would come to adore Him and the whole of His creation and majesty all the more.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be – Psalm 139:14, 16 (New International Version)

Written by Catherine