Remembering Memorial Day

So, what does Memorial Day mean to you?  The start of Summer, certainly it has come to be the marker for the season to begin.  Many celebrate this day with picnics, long weekend trips and back yard barbeques.

For many this weekend and Memorial Day in particular is a deeply meaningful day.  The depth of meaning of this day didn’t really hit me until I was about 25 and  I was privileged to be the Executive Director of the Meeker County Historical Society and Grand Army of the Republic Hall.  I never dreamed about running a museum, or getting paid to do the same but it put my degree to work out side the realm of being a Social Studies teacher and it was an incredible experience.

The front part of “my” museum is an old Grand Army of the Republic Hall. The GAR as everyone called it was a fraternal organization of Northern Civil War Veterans. In the years that followed many of these Veterans found their way to the rich farmland in Meeker County Minnesota.  Once here they bound together and built this hall to hold their meetings and serve as kind of a community hub.  When I first walked into the entry of this hall, I was overwhelmed with a sense of reverence bordering on holiness.  The pictures that lined the walls and looked down on you held you in their stoic glare.

Memorial Day was started under the impetus of the GAR.  In the early days it was called “Decoration Day” and many old timers on my board still called it that.  The reason was that on this day they remembered all those who had died in our nations service graves were decorated to honor the dead.

The histories of these soldiers were full of heroic stories, of terrible stories and many of them bore the scars of their service and sacrifice not only on their bodies but in their souls as well. The solemn photos that filled the museum files of Decoration Day observances show the depth of feeling about those who had died in serving and those who carried the scars of war deep into the rest of their lives.

These days there are those who feel we should not glorify such things as war and its terrible consequences and I agree, war is a horrible thing that God never intends for us. God desires Shalom, peace for all of his creation, but some how we continually muck that up.  Why wars are fought and how they are fought have changed over the years but the cost to humanity has never changed. However, this does not mean we should not remember and give thanks for those who did what they had to do.  We must take care not to put too much of a modern gloss on things that happened long before we were born.

Today we should rightly give thanks for those who have selflessly served from the very beginnings of our nation to those who serve today. Agree with the political situation that necessitates their service or not, the men and women who serve in our military deserve our thanks for they do what we can not, and maybe will not do our selves. They often put themselves in harms way, and many have given their lives so that we can enjoy a brat, and a beer on a humid May afternoon.  May God bless the memories of those who have served and the lives of those who serve today.

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