Freedom is a gift worth remembering
Memory is a defining quality of being human. The art of remembering can not only bring great joy as one recalls positive past events but is also essential to learning from former days and honoring admirable actions. Granted, some memories are painful and often ongoing grief as hurts are emotionally processed. Even so, memory and remembering are fundamental acts of being human.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, finds its beginnings in 1868 as a way for people honor the dead from the Civil War and adorn graves to remember those soldiers who had been lost in battle. For a nation still reeling from a war between brothers and struggling to rebuild and restart, there was a unification in honoring the dead who had giving their lives fighting for others.
As the nation grew and transitioned into the beginning of the 20th century, new wars would come about, and more lost soldiers would be added to the list of those to be memorialized. It was not until 1971 that the observance became an officially recognized Federal holiday and was placed on the last Monday of May, even as the nation was still battling in the Vietnam War. Here now, 49 years from Federal recognition and 152 years since the tradition began and we again have the need and opportunity to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for love of country and protection of freedom.
My wife’s grandmother lost her brother in WWII. Like thousands and thousands of families who have lost someone in war, his body was buried on the field where he gave his last breath for the cause of liberty. On a small spot in a cemetery in Dallas lies a placard with his name, date of birth, date of death and rank and service in the Army. For decades after his death, family would decorate his place in the cemetery and remember him, honor him for his life of service. Memory and remembrance are so vitally important in this life because no one is really gone if there is someone alive who remembers them.
It is important that we teach our children to memorialize the memory of those who given their life for freedom. There will come a day when my wife’s grandmother passes from this life to the next and she will no longer be here to remember her brother. The essential and intention observance of Memorial Day is more important than it ever has been in our nation’s history. If we do not remember there is a cost to freedom, we will no longer value freedom and we will easily take for granted this great gift.
Psalm 77: 11-15, “I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The same goes for remembering what the Lord has done for us. We must continue to intentionally teach our children what God has done for us through the work of Jesus our Savior. If we fail to do this, we risk no longer valuing salvation and will take for granted the freedom given to us through the cross and empty tomb. Our remembrance of freedom must also include a life that honors the sacrifice.
Freedom is a gift worth remembering and an existence worth fighting for!
For Christ’s Kingdom and Memory of the Fallen!
Rev. Brad McKenzie is Lead Pastor at Orange First Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange.