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Memorial Day

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“In New York harbor stands a lady,
With a torch raised to the sky.
And all who see her, know she stands for
Liberty for you and I.

I’m so proud to be called an American
To be named with the brave and the free.
I will honor our flag and our trust in God,
And the Statue of Liberty.”

Memorial - “Anything meant to help people remember some person or event such as a monument, a holiday etc.

Memorial Day - A legal holiday in the U.S. in memory of the dead servicemen and women of all wars.

Respect - To feel or show honor or esteem for; to consider or treat with deference or dutiful regard.”


Memorial Day weekend - 2004 is shaping up to be one of the more special Memorial Day’s our country has celebrated in some time. With the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion being somewhat woven into the activities of the World War II Memorial dedication there is much to see and do. Personally I have watched in awe of the men and women whose stories of duty during WW II have been chronicled on some of the news stations. (I try real hard not to watch the interviews with the Vietnam vets because they always have to show those “then” and “now” pictures and I hate to be reminded that I am one of them and likewise, have a “now” face and physique.)

If you were on The Mall in Washington D.C. yesterday you would have seen it filled to capacity with aging WW II vets. Those who tally such grim statistics tell us that already two thirds of them have passed on and over one thousand join their ranks each day. They have every right to be proud of their service to our country and the memorial raised in their honor. Each star in the memorial represents one hundred war dead, we are told - and the stars stretch on forever.

Four hundred and seven thousand men and women……… From the European theatre to the Pacific. On a small island called Saipan, 3,500 dead - Philippines - Okinawa (12,500 dead) - Iwo Jima (4 ½ miles long, by 2 ½ miles wide - 19,000 WIA and 7,000 KIA)

I presided at a wedding ceremony at the Michigan State Alumni Chapel yesterday. As I was waiting for the wedding party to arrive, for the first time I noticed that the chapel was dedicated to those who lost their lives in war. Silently I stood before the names etched in granite and blessed them and their families for their ultimate sacrifice.

Fifty eight thousand names are carved in stone on the Vietnam veterans memorial. One of the most visited sites in the D.C. area, and yet I wonder how many without friends or family members included on The Wall are able to see through the beauty of this awe inspiring monument and look into the life of one person or their grieving family who is listed there.

You see sometimes I get to thinking that it’s easy to lump men and women into a compilation of numbers and forget that each of them died, one at a time, for a cause beyond their ken. Individual men and women who wanted to live as badly as you and I. Men and women who wanted to raise families. Men and Women with dreams and hopes for the future, just as you and I have. How do we keep them from becoming just statistics or numbers. How do we keep ever before us the fact they were someone’s Father or Uncle or Aunt or Sister or Friend?

Well………………. I posed the question……… Now I will try and answer it.

I’m not sure we can. The numbers are too large - The contributors too diverse - The time span is too great. That is why I also included the definition for “respect.” For sure we cannot memorialize each fallen hero personally. BUT we can “show honor or esteem for - hold in high regard; and consider or treat with deference or dutiful regard”. And we must.

Due to a lightning inspired power surge our satellite T.V. was on the fritz last week. Therefore I had the privilege of watching several days of Network television. (Channels 6 & 10) I have decided maybe I should do that more often. Is it just me or is the liberal bias actually palpable in their programming and especially their news shows and special reports? Have we become so casual about the freedoms we enjoy that we have also forgotten how we got them and maintain them? I watched enough bashing of our country’s international policies to maintain a stable world and a free America to last me a lifetime, in just a few days. And, more to the point, I could sense an underlying sense of disregard for those who duty is not to make policy but to enforce it. E.g. American servicemen/women. (Showing ad nauseum, the pictures of “prisoner abuse“). If our country, as a whole, was not so supportive of our armed forces, believe me, the liberal media would be the first to hang them out to dry. I saw it. I lived through it. I remember Vietnam.

My message to the critics and media personal (The Fourth Estate (the Media) - Executive - Legislative - Judicial) is this………….. Do you prefer peace over war? So do I. What we seem to differ on is the way to attain it. You seem to believe the way to peace is through negotiations, “peace talks” ad infinitum, “shuttle diplomacy”, and Camp David accords.

I say……… that’s fine, BUT it only works if everyone agrees to it. Those who know tell us that someone like a Napoleon, or a Hitler or any Banana Republic dictator……….. Or Sadaam Hussein or a Bin Laden……… ONLY respond to force. They want us dead. Whether you can wrap your mind around that fact of not the truth remains………. The WANT us dead.

Justice and fairness are not concepts that are understood or practiced by a large portion of the world and as a general rule, according to Plato, “order must be imposed.” “Justice without force,” Pascal wrote, “is a myth.” “History has shown us that when a people declare they will not fight to defend themselves or protect their rights then they will surely be over run and subjugated by those with no such qualms,” another unrecalled philosophers spoke. St. Augustine said, “War and conquest are a sad necessity in the eyes of men of principle, yet it would be still more unfortunate if wrong-doers should dominate just men.”

I don’t know about you, but when I go to bed each night I thank God for that man or woman in uniform who is standing between our nation and the wrong doers of this world. I pray for the families and loved ones of that one who was killed this week to spare my life and yours. I do not know them personally. I don’t have to to respect their contribution to my life, my liberty and my pursuit of happiness.

Honor them Americans - Hold their memory and personal sacrifices in high esteem -


Take just a few seconds …………… and in your mind I want you to do just a thirty second overview of the Old Testament, taking note of the many battles in which the Israelites engaged and the men (and women?) who were involved. (You say it didn’t take you that long? Oh My! So much to teach - So little time. Lol)

Of course, I’m sure you realize that such a cursory survey will not suffice. The Old Testament is simply filled with “after action” reports isn’t it. Waaaaaaay too many to mention today, but I’m sure you get the picture. Oh, by-the-way, did you also notice how the names of the men and women involved in leadership roles or who contributed to the success of the mission were included?

In no particular order………. Moses - Deborah - Joshua - Gideon - David - Samson - Saul …….. Etc. Did your memory linger on the list of David’s “Mighty Men”. (The Green Berets - Navy Seals - Force Recon - of their day.)

2 Samuel 23:8f - “These are the names of David’s might men: Josheb-Basshebebeth, a Tahkemonite, who was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter. Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the men of Israel retreated, but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. (v. 20) Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. And then verse 24 and following goes on to list the rest of the “Mighty Men.”

Do you wonder why the Spirit of God moved the writers of Scripture to include the names and exploits of the freedom fighters of Israel in this book? Could it be to give honor where honor is due? Could it be that He wanted you and I, many hundreds, even thousands of years later to know them and respect them for their efforts to preserve His plan for the ages? Could it be……… Could it be…………… (Now, wait a minute. I have to ask you a question. Do you believe that God is as sociologically, psychologically, and politically astute as we are? Then could it be that even God in Heaven knows that:

Justice and fairness are not concepts that are understood or practiced by a large portion of the world and as a general rule, “order must be imposed.” - “Justice without force, is a myth.” - “History has shown us that when a people declare they will not fight to defend themselves or protect their rights then they will surely be over run and subjugated by those with no such qualms.” - “War and conquest are a sad necessity in the eyes of men of principle, yet it would be still more unfortunate if wrong-doers should dominate just men.”

So…….. How will we celebrate our hero’s this Memorial weekend?

My conversations with others over the past few days as they shared their plans with me for this weekend - show me that each of us approach Memorial Day, from a different perspective. BUT, hopefully, always with respect for their sacrifice.

1. Honor War dead - “Decoration Day” to my grandfather, until the day he died. Honoring the final resting place of the war dead began before the close of the Civil War. In the South, the town of Columbus, Miss, claims origination of a formal observance for both the Union and the Confederate dead in 1866. In 1868, Commander in Chief John A Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued a general order designating May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”

Since that time, Memorial Day has become a time to honor all of our war dead. - And let it be said that our observance today has nothing to do with the justness or unjustness of any particular war. We want to go beyond politics and say with reverence these men and women heard their country’s call to arms and gave “that last full measure of devotion,” - even their lives.

2. Remember family/friends who have passed on. As you well know, Memorial Day has evolved into a time to honor all family and friends who have passed on.

Illus. Walking with my children through the cemetery and talking with them about the person whose site we were decorating. Many of our family members were service veterans - most weren’t. But it gives an excellent opportunity to help our children gain a sense of connectedness with their family history. Gives a sense of belonging and loyalty to family and country.

Memorial Day is made to order for sharing with your children and grandchildren the fact that we would not be living life as we now know it if someone had not paid the price of liberty for us. Our freedom - the social order we now enjoy - the democratic process - justice and justness - health - freedom from fear - the ability to seek the employment we prefer - All these things and more, we owe to those who paid the price for them. And often times, that price can be measured only in blood and human lives. (Parents - This also offers you a segue to the Greatest Story ever told).

“On lonely Golgotha, stood a cross,
With our Lord raised to the sky.
And all who kneel there live forever,
As all the saved can testify.

I’m so glad to be called a Christian,
To be named with the ransomed and whole.
As the statue liberates the citizen,
So the cross liberates the soul.”

3. Those who come to Memorial Day as just another holiday. ( Three day weekend) - A time to get away to the lake for the weekend - barbecue with friends - plant garden - and so forth.

I must admit that in the past, I have been guilty of complaining that so many see this as just another “day off.” However, as I pondered my thoughts for today, I was forced to conclude - Why not? Why shouldn’t people be able to do whatever pleases them on this long weekend? After all weren’t we fighting for the right of self-determination - Going to the lake or a car show - or a rock concert, for that matter should be something we can be safe in doing if we so decide.

I do have to say, however, that I still personally believe that to use this weekend as a means of promoting a product or selling a car or suit is still tacky and disrespectful and though I support your right to do so - I still won’t buy your product because of it - which is my right.

Concl: Memorial Day -2004 - is not only a time to remember those who have gone before paving the way for those who follow, by their privations, sacrifices, and their lives

Memorial Day 2004 - is also a time to celebrate Americans coming together in the face of a common enemy.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen, coast guard, and marines, - Active and Reserve - joining forces with Doctors, Nurses, construction workers, fire fighters, policemen, and civilians from all walks of life.

It’s refreshing and even a bit startling to those of us grown cynical by a seeming lack of interest in affairs outside our own person and family.

In the days following the 9-11 attack on the twin towers in NYC, I couldn’t help but think that if President John F. Kennedy were alive today, I’m sure he would be pleased to see that even 40 years after his stirring call to “ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country,” Americans are still capable of rising to meet his challenge.

Let me close by reading for you one verse of that patriotic hymn “America the Beautiful.”

O, beautiful for hero’s proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self
Their country loved
And mercy more than life.

To all America’s heroes - service veterans and civilians . .

Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life. . . .

I salute you.

God Bless America

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