Greetings once again friends!
This is Episode five of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Some Gave All.”
Today’s episode is a special recognition of Memorial Day, 2021. Click here to listen to the audio podcast.
Arlington National Cemetery
Today, also, I am thinking about two of my great-grandfathers whom I know were Civil War veterans, and my father who was a veteran of the United States Marine Corp during WWI.
I’ve put together a few thoughts to share with you today related to this holiday. I hope they will be meaningful for you as we remember loved ones who are no longer with us—plus toward the end of today’s episode I’ve included some important lessons we can consider.
Quite frankly, I don’t think I became aware of Memorial Day until I was about 13. That’s when I discovered that the Indianapolis 500 race was always held on Memorial Day. When we turned on the radio that morning in 1959, we discovered that the opening ceremonies were underway — and being broadcast live on our little local station KREW in Sunnyside, Washington.
Our family wasn’t really very race car oriented, but the Indy 500 was a pretty exciting event. We listened until the the race got underway. The announcers brought everything alive with their descriptions, and we could hear the sound of those powerful engines screaming around the 2.5 mile track.
But, we had other things to do that day, so we turned off the radio and headed out the door. When we returned a few hours later, I was amazed that the race was still on—although they were nearing the end.
I have no recollection of who the winner was—I suppose I could look it up—but somehow, listening to the Indy 500 back then brought an awareness of Memorial Day to me which I didn’t have up until that time.
And, even after that, it wasn’t until quite a few years later that the Memorial Day holiday began to take on a deeper, far more important meaning for me.
Eventually, I looked up the history to understand the reason it was part of our annual national calendar of events.
It seems there are several versions of how the holiday began. But, all historians agree that the movement to recognize a “day of remembrance” was an outgrowth of the American Civil War. In that terrible conflict over 620,000 Americans lost their lives. There was no community—large or small—that was not affected by the war, and fallen soldiers were buried in cemeteries from tiny church yards to huge tracts of land.
Suffice it to say, great grief touched nearly every home, every family, every city, town, and village in America.
Following the war, a movement sprang up—led largely by women, war widows and mothers who had lost their sons, daughters left without a father, and others who also sensed a deep loss of loved ones.
This movement was originally called “Decoration Day.” The graves of the fallen were decorated with flowers as symbols of love and appreciation for their efforts and sacrifice.
Out of all the stories telling how “Decoration Day” began, my favorite comes out of Charleston, South Carolina. Near the end of of the war, thousands of Union POWs were herded into makeshift camps near the city. Living conditions rapidly deteriorated, making life truly miserable for the prisoners.
One of these camps was on a former racetrack, where things got so bad that over 250 prisoners died from exposure. They were buried in a mass grave located behind the grandstand.
The end of the war began on April 9, 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Army of the Potomac.
Just three weeks later, on May 1 of that year, more than 1000 people—the vast majority of whom were recently liberated slaves—gathered at the Charleston racetrack to consecrate a new, proper burial site for the fallen. The assembled group sang hymns, gave readings, and placed flowers around the cemetery, which they designated for the “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
Three years later, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of Union Civil War veterans, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nation-wide day of commemoration for all soldiers killed in the conflict. General Logan was the one who gave the name “Decoration Day” to the holiday. Following the 1880s, the day was also often called “Memorial Day.”
May 30 then became the designated date for each annual “Memorial Day” for remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their military service. In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into effect, which moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the “last Monday in May.”
Over the years, observance practices have expanded to not only to remember casualties of the Civil War, but to further include those lost in all American wars. Plus, many families now also decorate the graves of loved ones on Memorial Day—regardless of whether the deceased individual had any military experience or not.
Our Memorial Day holiday today has become a special time to pause for reflection, honor, and appreciation for the legacy of those we loved, and must not forget. I’d invite you to meditate for a few moments now, by listening to this simple bugle solo of “Taps.”
(P.S. Listen carefully to hear the birds also singing in the background. (Love it!)
So, let us consider a few lessons we must plant deep into the soil of our hearts.
- Freedom is not free.
The cost is dear—literally millions of lives have been lost to gain—and then preserve—our freedom. Rivers of blood have been shed for this sacred cause. The sacrifices have brought unspeakable pain and suffering. We stand today in the shadow of their wings. We must never forget:
“Some gave all, for Freedom is not free.”
2. The cost of our spiritual freedom is also beyond measure.
One of the early Christian “fathers,” Tertullian (c.155-c.AD 220) famously said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of [of the church].”
In the Christian era, hundreds of millions of believers who stood firm, unwavering in their faith in Christ, paid the ultimate price with torture, persecution, and death.
Our heritage of faith has been delivered to us at the cost of immeasurable personal sacrifice by our spiritual forebears.
Our freedom in Christ must never be taken for granted. Let us resolve therefore—in the power of God’s grace and the risen Christ—
- To never forget the cost of our freedom (both spiritual and political);
- To live with integrity, dignity, and honor, regardless of challenges, persecutions, or personal pain;
- To cherish the ultimate promise found in Revelation 2:10 —
“Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
Next week I’m going to tell you about a hugely popular author I’ve come to enjoy over the last few years, and share some glimpses into several of his books that I have found quite profound and thought provoking. I think you will enjoy knowing about them, too.
I hope you can join me for that.