I grew up in a small town in southwestern Connecticut. It was far from Mayberry, but it had a small town feel in many ways. One of those ways was during Memorial Day weekend. In fact, some of my fondest memories as a kid were of Memorial Day and the parade that they had every year.
My father was the pastor of a small church that was located right in the middle of the town. For a stretch, there was a group from the church who would make floats for the parade to commemorate those who had given and sacrificed for our country. For as long as I can remember, my dad would march in the parade somewhere. The parade would begin at a shopping plaza on one side of town and end up at the cemetery on the other side of town where there were a number of veterans buried. There a service would be held and my father would generally sing “God Bless America” and another patriotic song.
That was my memory of Memorial Day, a day that had been set aside to remember those who had sacrificed and given all for freedom. How fortunate I am to have those memories, both of my dad and of the day.
When most people think of Memorial Day, I fear that they just see it as a day off from work, a day where they can barbecue or sit out by the pool or lake. It’s been harder for me as I’ve moved away from my hometown to find places where I can remember the same way that I did as a boy growing up. It doesn’t seem like there is the same emphasis on Memorial Day as I was used to, but greater than that is the fact that my stage of life has not always allowed me to take advantage of some of the events and activities that are offered.
As I spend time today thinking about those who I know who have served and all of those who remain nameless to me but who sacrificed, I have to force myself to remain quiet, even if for just a moment or two. I need to force myself to focus on the meaning of today so as to not let it get past me.
My family was not a military family, although I had an uncle who was a Marine and a cousin who was in the Coast Guard. My family was not as personally impacted by wars as others were, but the depth of gratitude is no less in us. I am grateful that others have served, have sacrificed, have given all they had.
Today is a day to remember. Take time to remember that many have given everything so that we might have something called freedom. I am grateful to all who have given.
No thoughts and words of sacrifice can be spoken in my hearing without reminding me of the greatest sacrifice ever given and the gift of freedom that we receive through the One who gave all that we might have life. For that sacrifice, I am eternally grateful.
Freedom is rarely free. To those who have given and paid the price to maintain that freedom, I salute you. Thank you for all that you have done.