By Debra Whittington: QCS Religion Columnist
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. Deuteronomy 32:7.
A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I sat on our friend’s boat out at Ute Lake spending leisurely day fishing. It wasn’t what we planned that particular day as both of us had plenty of work to do. However, when our friend came by and invited us to go fishing with him and his wife we jumped at the chance.
After we were on the water I settled in the back for the ride to the spot where our friend caught several fish the previous week. There weren’t many people on the lake that day and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and God’s beautiful scenery.
It was a quiet, relaxing day and we were blessed to catch a few fish. However, it was the time spent with
friends that made the day so special. On the way home that evening we commented on how busy the lake would be on Memorial Day.
People all over are looking forward to the Memorial Day holiday. Many will spend the weekend at the lake. Others will be at home cooking outside with friends. After all, Memorial Day officially kicks off the summer season. Still, we need to remember the reason why Memorial Day exists.
Once known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is officially observed to honor those Americans who gave their lives for our freedom. The last Monday of May is the official observance set by the government while traditional Memorial Day remains on May 30. In 1868, the first observance took place to honor those who died in the Civil War.
Decoration Day was a solemn occasion that was first and foremost designated to remember those brave men and women who gave their very life for their country. They made the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in. Eventually, the day was expanded to remember all loved ones who had passed away. Families went together to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of their loved ones and to remember.
The Memorial Day tradition began for me in 1976, as a newlywed when my mother-in-law and Mark’s grandmother took me to the cemetery on Memorial Day to place flowers on the graves of loved ones. As we made the rounds, they told me about each person, their relationship, and something about their lives. I continue the tradition to honor their memories and place flowers on their graves as I remember the years the three of us went together. While these dear ladies are now with the Lord, I am determined to continue the tradition and pray that someday another will continue on in my place.
Walking through the cemetery, the numerous flags reminded me that this tradition came with a price. Even for those in the military who came home from war, their lives were never the same.
From the first observance in 1868 to honor the dead of the Civil War to today as we remember those who died in Iraq, we pay homage to their great sacrifice. The flags in the cemetery remind me that they represent the life of a son, brother, father, and friend etc. that was willing to give their all for their country.
I am reminded of all of those who are currently in active service or the reserves waiting to be called up at a moment’s notice. There is the young husband who won’t be able to be with his wife when she gives birth to their first child. There is the young father who has missed out on much of his young sons’ lives because duty called. I pray that this Memorial Day we will remember these men as well as other men and women who are away from their loved ones to serve their country.
It is easy to get caught up in numbers. The statistics of soldiers killed in war is almost mind-boggling. Instead, it is through reading the stories of heroism that these soldiers start to become real to us. To me, the soldiers that are the most real are those whose stories don’t appear in any history textbook. They are the quiet multitude who served their country without calling attention to themselves and are remembered by a marker and a flag in a cemetery.
On Memorial Day and every day, let us always remember these servants who gave the ultimate price for their country. It is through their sacrifices that we live in a free country and are able to worship the Lord openly. God bless each and every one of them.