Let’s Remember on Memorial Day

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:5

Memorial Day is an American holiday observed the last Monday in May.  It is a day to remember men and women who died while serving in the military. May we never forget to honor these special people who have given their lives for our country!

Unfortunately, many of us have allowed this holiday to become merely a three-day weekend with a reason for a picnic. This year, large picnic gatherings are being discouraged because of the continued need for social distancing caused by COVID-19. I challenge all of us to take more time to remember those who have died for our nation.

The history of Memorial Day is complex and includes many myths – some true and some false. However, we do know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. It was started following the Civil War. The graves of those who lost their lives during this war were decorated with flowers. Soldiers were remembered.

The reason for this holiday was a war fought on our soil. However, most wars taking the lives of our military men and women have been fought on foreign land. We can go back as far as World Wars I and II. Or, we can remember more current wars as the Iraqi War and ongoing battles in countries like Afghanistan. Currently, we are engaged in a different type of warfare – a medical war. It is fought throughout our homeland as well as around the world.

Today, I want to pay tribute to those who have become warriors during this medical war. Too many soldiers (patients) have lost their lives during their personal battle with the coronavirus. The statistics continue to change regarding the number of lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many new graves in cemeteries. Some bodies have not yet been buried. We weep with the families who have lost loved ones.

Additional soldiers have fought the fight and conquered the disease. With them, we shout hallelujah! Others are still in the midst of the battle trying to overcome the virus’ affects upon their bodies. As these warriors fight for their next breath, we breathe a prayer to God for their healing.

Our medical militia is huge. Staffs of hospitals and nursing homes are soldiers who line up for duty every day. We salute doctors, nurses, aides, cleaning workers, etc. Also on the front lines are our first responders. We express our thanks to these workers who place themselves in harm’s way!

As we approach Memorial Day, let us focus upon its purpose and meaning. Maybe we should think about this holiday’s original name – Decoration Day. Decorate the graves of those who have served in our United States military. Honor both the living and the dead. Place wreaths upon the graves of loved ones who have gone before us whether they served in our Armed Forces or not.

Elevation Worship has recorded the worship song Graves into Gardens. One line of the lyrics says, “You (God) turn graves into garden.” Ultimately, God is the One who truly turns graves into gardens. However, let us turn cemetery graves into floral gardens. It is an honor to recognize those who have given their lives for our nation. It is a privilege to remember our heritage.


A Memorial Day Honor to Gold Star Mothers

As citizens of the United States of America, we will be observing Memorial Day this coming Monday. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor military men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country. Unfortunately, many have forgotten the solemn meaning of this day. People have come to look upon this holiday as the first weekend of summer and celebrate with picnics rather than patriotism. However, there is a special group of women who still observe the true meaning of Memorial Day. I want to honor the American Gold Star Mothers today.

Let me take you back in history to World War I. When the United States entered the war in 1917, George Vaughn Seibold, 23, volunteered for military service. With her son no longer being home, Grace Darling Seibold decided to do some volunteering herself. She began visiting returning servicemen in hospitals.

Over time, Grace quit receiving letters from her son. However, she did not quit her volunteer work. She still visited hospitalized veterans in the Washington area. Unfortunately, George was never found. Her son had given his life for his country.

Grace knew that self-contained grief was destructive. So, she expanded her community service. While continuing to visit those hospitalized, she also reached out to other mothers who had lost sons in military service. Grace and these mothers organized a special group. Their purpose was not only to comfort each other, but to give loving care to hospitalized veterans in government hospitals far from home.

On June 4, 1928, twenty-five mothers met in Washington, DC to establish a national organization known as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. It is a private, nonprofit organization of American mothers who have lost sons and daughters serving in the United States Armed Forces.

The organization’s name was chosen because of the custom of military men and women’s families hanging a banner called a service flag in the windows of their homes. The service flag has a star for each family member in the Armed Forces. Living military personnel are represented by a blue star. When a son or daughter loses their life in combat, a gold star is superimposed over the blue star.

The Gold Star gives honor and glory to the person who has made the supreme sacrifice of life for his or her country. It signifies the last full measure of devotion and pride for the family making this sacrifice. These families do not want to focus upon mourning symbols that point out their personal loss. Gold Star Mothers choose to wear white instead of black. White denotes the celebration of their children’s goodness, innocence and sacrifice.

It is stated on the Gold Star Mothers’ website, “The success of our organization continues because of the bond of mutual love, sympathy, and support of the many loyal, capable, and patriotic mothers who while sharing their grief and their pride, have channeled their time, efforts and gifts to lessening the pain of others. We stand tall and proud by honoring our children, assisting our veterans, supporting our nation, and healing with each other.”

I first became aware of this group through a special friend, Dorothy, who is a Gold Star Mother. She and her husband Ken lost their son Nicholas on December 13, 2012. Nick was a Staff sergeant in the Army and was part of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal. He gave his life while serving in Afghanistan. Dorothy was a Blue Star Mother. Her blue star became a gold star. Today, the banner of the Gold Star Mothers of America hangs in a window of their home.

Memorial Day has a treasured place in the hearts of Gold Star Mothers and their families. On this day, they especially remember the lives of military sons and daughters they have lost. This year, Ken and Dorothy are going to Washington DC to join other soldiers and their families with whom Nick served. They will be attending the “Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom 2019event. This is a motorcycle rally that begins on Sunday at the Pentagon after a “blessing of the bikes” at the National Cathedral on Friday. The various events conclude on Monday. Nick’s first sergeant, Lt. Burns from Kansas, will be riding Nick’s motorcycle in this event. During the ride, they will stop at Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave site of one of Nick’s comrades. These two soldiers were part of the same unit and died within a month of each other. Dorothy says, “It will be a time of remembrance for all of the families that are visiting there.”

Nick is no longer alive on earth, but he is alive in heaven. The life he lived still influences the lives of his parents. Dorothy says, “The Lord continues to grant us opportunities to reach out with God’s love to others who have suffered the loss of loved ones.”

Today, I am privileged to honor these special Gold Star Mothers as well as remember those who have given their lives while serving our country. Let’s celebrate Memorial Day as originally intended.



Thoughts for Memorial Day

In the United States of America, next Monday we will celebrate Memorial Day. It is a time when we remember those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. We also honor those currently in our military.

Let’s take time to look at a few scriptures and make some comparisons of how the goals of our military men and women follow Christ’s example.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Out of love, God sent His Son to our world. Jesus sacrificed His life so that we, through faith, may receive the gift of eternal life. No one can do what God did. No one needs to do what God did because Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice.

However, there are several similarities between God and the people in our military. Our armed forces defend all of humanity – not only United States citizens. They serve out of love for people around the world. They fight for freedom for people who are treated inhumanely. These soldiers are willing to die so others can live. There is also a sacrifice paid by the families of our active military men and women. Parents and spouses of military personnel allow their family members to go around the world defending those whose lives are in danger. There is a high price to be paid.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Jesus lived and died for freedom. Freedom is the cause for which individuals choose to serve in our armed forces. Jesus died to set us free from sin. Those in the United States military are willing to die so that our citizens may live free from tyranny and terrorism.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Jesus loves us. He laid down His life for us. We are His friends. Military men and women love their country. They are willing to lay down their lives. They are our friends, not enemies.

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10

Jesus spoke these words when teaching His disciples how to pray. Their prayer was that God’s kingdom would reign on earth and His will would be done. The members of the United States armed forces serve their country defending their nation and the Constitution upon which the government is based. They serve their nation (or kingdom) and strive to fulfill the country’s goals (or will).

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine
or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
But in all these things we more than conquerors
through Him who loved us.
Romans 8:35-37

Paul acknowledges that we will encounter suffering. He lists several forms of suffering. However, he also assures us that nothing will separate us from Christ’s love. We are more than conquerors and we will obtain more than ordinary victories. Christ’s love triumphed over death. And, because of His love, we achieve abundant victories.

Paul’s words also offer assurance to our military personnel. If these men and women find themselves in harm’s way, they will face danger. If involved in combat, death will be a possibility. At these times, may our soldiers be aware of Christ’s presence. May they fight for freedom with faith. They are more than just conquerors.

In conclusion, I emphasize the importance of scripture being the foundation for our lives. I give thanks to Jesus for setting an example. I also thank members of our military for following the example of Christ. May Memorial Day be a time for us to honor these men and women of the United States of America for their sacrifices for freedom.

Memorial Day – A Day of Honor

On Monday, May 29, as Americans, we will celebrate what has become known as Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Numerous cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day but rregardless of the exact date or location of its origins, we do know that Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, originated after the Civil War with a desire to honor our dead. May 30, 1868 was the first Decoration Day. General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery while 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington.

Over the years, this special day has come to embrace not only Civil War soldiers who lost their lives but to also remember and recognize all those who have sacrificed their lives, living and dead, to serve in our military forces. When we celebrate Memorial Day, we take time to recognize those who are willing to protect us. Today I want to suggest that we expand our perception of those who protect us to include our first responders. These are people who are actively involved in our everyday homeland security.

When I think of our military, I imagine men and woman dressed in uniforms representing the Army, Air Force and Navy. However, I also see our first responders in other types of uniforms. I see police, firefighters and ambulance crew workers in attire signifying their form of service. Our military forces are stationed in countries around the world where they are put in harm’s way. In a different yet similar way, the members of our police force are in harm’s way when they respond to certain calls. I am not diminishing the right for us to take time to honor our military forces. However, I do feel these people are also worthy of our recognition and thanks for their services.

First responders include many people in numerous capacities. Approximately two months ago, we became particularly aware of another specific group of first responders who helped our area. We had a wind storm with 81 MPH wind gusts that resulted in over 100,000 people losing electrical power in  homes. Utility crews were the first responders to this situation. Their uniforms were orange vests and hard hats, Not only were all the workers of our local utility companies working around the clock to restore power, but 290 other utility crews came to aid the restoration process.

I want to highlight three scriptures that remind me of our first responders. When I read I Corinthians 16:13, I think of our National Guard. The verse states,Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” However, all of our first responders definitely show courage and strength. John 14:27 records Jesus saying, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace Jesus offers has a spiritual depth not offered by anyone else. Only the peace of God can enable our hearts to not be troubled or afraid. However, keeping peace within a city is the goal of the police force. There are certain locations within many cities where it is hard to live free of trouble and fear, but our police strive to provide us a peaceful environment. Jesus concludes Matthew 10:8 by saying, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Especially in smaller communities, many firefighters are volunteers who freely give of their time to help others.

Romans 13:7 is a good scripture for us to be mindful of regarding all those who are or have been part of our military forces and civilian responders.Give to everyone what you owe them: … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” These individuals deserve our respect and honor for their commitment to serve our nation and our citizens. Memorial Day is a good opportunity for us to set aside time to publicly recognize and thank those who protect us around the world and at home. However, they are also worthy of our support and gratitude every day of the year. Our freedom depends upon them.


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Remember Our Vets: Living and Dead


Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, has evolved over the years. The first observance was held on May 1,1865 to honor soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. Then it was expanded to be a day to honor all military personnel who have lost their lives for the good of our country, the United States of America. While there is still special emphasis for military men and women, currently it is also a time to remember all deceased family members and friends. Graves are decorated with flowers and flags.

Today I would like to be even more inclusive with those we honor. Let us take time to give special recognition to those of our armed services who are still alive today but suffer from the scars of war. I am particularly thinking of our veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There are those who contracted what has come to be known as Gulf War syndrome. It causes fatigue, chronic headaches, and skin and respiratory disorders. Its origin is uncertain, though it has been attributed to exposure to a combination of pesticides, vaccines, and other chemicals. There are also those who suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The most common symptoms of PTSD include difficulty concentrating, apathy, feelings of detachment, loss of appetite, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, and sleep disturbances. Our veterans who experience these symptoms try to live normal daily lives as part of our society, but it is not an easy task for them. May we extend courtesy and compassion to these individuals and their families. May we honor them because they, in their own way, have given their lives for our country as well. Men and women do not need to be in a grave before we decorate them with remembrance and respect on Memorial Day.

Those who have accepted the task of fighting for our country, both living and dead, are to be commended for their dedication to the ideals and goals of the United States of America. Our nation was founded upon the premise and promise of freedom and liberty for all. In the past, our freedom has been defended and it still requires protection by our military men and women. Threats to our freedom exist today and I am thankful for those of our armed forces who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to guard our homeland. Matthew 24:6-8 tells us that there will continue to be wars and rumors of wars as nations rise against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms until Christ returns; so our soldiers have a task before them. However, we also have the assurance of Matthew 28:20 when Jesus says that He will always be with us to the end of the age. He has been, currently is, and always will be with all of our military personnel and their families. May we remember them with special honor on Memorial Day for the protection they have provided for our nation, and may we remember them daily in our prayers so that their lives will be protected as well.

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