It annoys me that as a society, we don’t seem to grasp the point. For many people, Memorial Day is treated as nothing more than a three-day weekend which kicks off the summer. It provides a perfect chance to have a picnic or embark on the first camping trip of the season.
For others - it is seen as a great marketing opportunity - have you noticed how Memorial Day sales abound? Even churches, unfortunately get into the act of self-promotion on Memorial Day weekend. I am harder on churches because I think they should be held to a higher standard. If we truly believe God is taking care of us, then we don't need to usurp Memorial Day to promote ourselves. It just looks bad. All-too-often I see churches treat Memorial Day celebrations as a chance to market themselves and get their names into the community. I think it is fine for churches to lead prayer for the families of fallen soldiers - or decorate grave sites in honor of the fallen, those are appropriate activities. But piggybacking other events onto Memorial Day is sad - unless, of course, the church is willing to participate without putting its name on everything and just truly wants to be there to honor those who died fighting for freedom, because the purpose of Memorial Day is not to put the focus on us - it is to remember them.
We really do tend to take our freedom for granted. When the concept of Memorial Day began, the pain of losing soldiers in the wars which gave and protected this nation's freedom and unity was still raw. The graves were respected; the families of the fallen honored. The reality of the price of freedom stared everyone in the face.
Think about it - how much is a life worth? How many lives were sacrificed in the fight to give the citizens of the United States the freedom we enjoy?
Nobody likes to talk about or dwell on the subject of death, but just because we push it out of our minds and don’t think about it doesn't change the reality that we are free because people fiercely believed freedom was so important they would die trying to make sure it was firmly established in the United States of America. We give it a passing nod and "like" freedom posts on Facebook and feel patriotic. Once again, we are making the day about ourselves. In this culture, it is hard not to, I suppose.
But when Memorial Day originated - there were no picnics, parades, or camping trips. There were no Memorial Day sales or self-promoting organizations. It was all about the brave individuals who contributed to the freedom of what was to become one of the greatest nations in the history of the world. In May of 1868, an organization of union veterans decorated the graves of fallen soldiers and their leader, Major General John A. Logan, declared that every May the graves of fallen war heroes should be decorated with flowers. It actually wasn't just intended to honor the dead, it was a reminder for the living.
General Logan declared: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
I repeat: "Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic." Therein lies my pet peeve - I think we have forgotten. We wouldn't have the freedoms we do if it was not for the brave individuals who believed it was important enough to die for. It's not about us.
It is not about us.