As we observed Memorial Day last week, I thought about how there was a time when society seemed to be more sensitive and compassionate about casualties of war. Today there are many distractions that cause the mind and conscience to skip over what is important. Another example is the neglect to teach young children about who God is.
Some people might not realize there is a distinction between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. In other words, the purpose of Memorial Day is to memorialize the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
You'll find that some veterans find it dismaying when they are thanked on Memorial Day. Most realize the person has good intentions but are confused about who the day is meant to honor. It's a time to remember those who lost their lives and could not come home. We might consider how we can support and safeguard their grieving families and loved ones who are left behind, as well as reflect on why we have the freedom that we enjoy today.
Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor every veteran who served in the U.S. armed forces, in wartime or peacetime, regardless of whether they died or survived. Veterans Day is always observed officially on Nov. 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls. For all the families who have lost loved ones to war, let us pray and consider not only the untold agony these soldiers went through but also the torment of their grieving families.
There is a custom for how the American flag is raised on Memorial Day. At sunrise, flags are briskly raised to full staff, then lowered to a half-staff position, where they remain until noon, then raised to the top of the staff until sunset. Traditionally, on Memorial Day, volunteers often place small American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. Consider visiting a local cemetery to place flags for one of these holidays. Many organizations are grateful for volunteers.
The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries was an annual act of remembrance, as well as a chance to clean and decorate family memorials. My mom and dad used to do this when I was a kid. In early rural America, it was usually performed in summer and was an occasion for family reunions and picnics.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, starting with the American Civil War. It's believed that the tradition of honoring the dead was inspired by the way people in Southern states decorated the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers with flowers, wreaths and flags. On May 5, 1868, Gen. John A. Logan issued an order to designate May 30 as an annual day of remembrance.
With the Civil War, America's need to honor its military dead became prominent as monuments were raised and ceremonies centering on the decoration of soldiers' graves were held in towns and cities throughout the nation. After World War I, Decoration Day included all fallen soldiers, not just those from the Civil War, and the term "Memorial Day" started being used. By World War II, Memorial Day became the term in more common usage. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday by an act of Congress.
My uncle Kenny Maye and his cousin Thomas Maye were drafted for the Korean War at the tender age of 18. They were fresh out of high school and had their entire lives ahead of them.
My mother admired her older brother Kenny, who worked in a grocery store after school and would give their mother a part of his wages to help the struggling family. Mom was the youngest and remembers the day when military personnel arrived and knocked on the door with the devastating news that Kenny had been killed on the frontlines of battle. His body was not recovered, but they did find his dog tags on the battlefield. My grandmother ran through the house screaming and stayed in bed for a week. Thomas was never found and is still listed as missing in action. Soon no one will even remember these lads, but God will never forget them.
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