Fallen but not forgotten

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, May 30, 2024

By: Dr. Billy Holland, columnist

This week we honor those who died while fighting for our country. There was a time when society seemed to be more sensitive and compassionate about casualties of war, but today there are so many distractions that cause us to not have our priorities in the right order. This day is not about politics or worldviews, it’s about giving the highest respect to those who paid the greatest price. The liberties we are thankful for today did not come without the sacrifice of many brave men and women as freedom does not come without cost. We remember those who were not given the opportunity to be reunited with their families or to enjoy the abundant blessings that we often take for granted.

While both Memorial Day and Veterans Day are Federal holidays, there is a distinction between them. Here are a few things some people might not know about this time of reflection and remembrance. Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May and commemorates the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. You’ll find that some veterans find it dismaying when they are thanked on this day and most realize the person has good intentions but are confused about who the day is meant to honor. Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor every veteran who has served or currently serving in the United States Armed Forces, in wartime or peacetime and is observed officially on November 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls.

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Traditionally, on Memorial Day, volunteers often place small American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. Flags are raised and then solemnly lowered to half mast. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 pm. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day in 1861, as military personnel were honored from the American Civil War. It’s believed the tradition of honoring fallen soldiers was inspired by the way Southern states decorated both the Confederate and Union soldiers’ graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan issued an order to designate May 30 as an annual day of remembrance. America’s compassion to remember its fallen warriors became prominent as monuments were constructed 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. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday by an act of Congress. For all the grieving families that have lost loved ones to war we pray that God will continue to bring comfort and peace. 1 Peter 5:7 promises, “Cast all your anxieties on Christ, for He cares for you.” “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him” – Gilbert Chesterton. It’s estimated that over 1.1 million American soldiers have been killed since the Revolutionary War in 1775. May we never forget that freedom isn’t free. It’s often said, we don’t know them all, but we owe them all.

My uncle Kenny and his cousin Thomas were drafted for the Korean War at the tender age of 18. Two young men fresh out of high school who had their entire lives ahead of them. My mother admired her older brother Kenny who as a teenager 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 perished on the front lines. His body was not recovered, but his dog tags were found on the battlefield. My grandmother ran through the house screaming and stayed in bed for a week. Cousin Thomas was never found and is listed as missing in action. As the generations keep moving forward, there will come a day when no one will remember them, however, it’s comforting to know that God will never forget them. Our flag doesn’t fly because the wind moves it, but because of the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.

Dr. Holland is a Christian minister, chaplain, and author. You are invited to read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com.