It was with heavy heart that I dragged myself away church yesterday feeling empty. The church did not have a Memorial Day service. How could they not?
Our church back home in San Antonio, Texas always had a huge Memorial Service, complete with the choir wearing patriotic colors singing the Service Songs Medly, and also singing a powerful choral rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic. We also had the color guard from the local military school present the flags. All vets were asked to wear their uniforms to the service and stand when their anthem was sung. Quite often there were also special solos and I'm sure the pastor had a special message. We did all of this for the Fourth of July and Veteran's Day church services as well. The music pastor's father was a Navy vet, so he completely understood the sacrifice our service members make in giving their lives for our country.
Some of our military members return home, hopefully to much appreciation. Others never do return home because they gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to have our freedoms today. How can a church not have a Memorial Day service? We have freedom of religion today because of those who risked their lives in the defense of our nation.
Christian singer Michael W. Smith has been posting on his facebook account the following verse this weekend in recognition of Memorial Day: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." John 15:13 Those are our loved ones and friends who have gone to serve our country, some never to return home again. How can we forget them? We mustn't. My family won't.
After church we went to Arlington National Cemetery to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms today. When we went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we saw not only the changing of the guard, but for the first time ever we also saw a wreath laying ceremony and heard the playing of "Taps." I was in tears. Thank you to all who served. I am so very humbled and thankful to all who put themselves in harm's way and died in service to our country.
Memorial Day began shortly after the Civil War as Decoration Day, after those sad years when brother fought brother when flowers were put on the graves of those who died in the war. Whereas Veteran's Day is to remember all who have served, Memorial Day specifically remembers those who died in harms' way. Of course we want to instinctively remember even the living vets on this day, but I have heard more than one humbly submit that this day is for his/her buddy who died by their side in battle. It is a day set aside for us to remember that our freedoms are not free. Our freedoms came at prodigious cost. We must never take our freedoms for granted.
Here is a beautifully poignant Memorial Day message and prayer from one of my all-time favorite pastors and Bible teachers, Chuck Swindoll, who himself is a Marine vet.