What does Memorial Day mean to you? Around here, it’s the start of tourist season. Traffic gets heavier, beaches get busier, and you have to pay to park just about everywhere. Where I grew up, it meant hopping in the car and driving to a small town in the Coal Region of Pennsylvania called Summit Hill to visit our cousins for the town’s Memorial Day parade. My childhood is filled with memories of red, white and blue on everyone, poppies from the VFW, and a very big parade for a small town. Our cousin would then fire up his state-of-the-art GrillMaster 6000, which no one but he could come within 10 yards of, and we would enjoy burgers, hot dogs and chicken.
But what does Memorial Day really mean? What’s it about? Is it really just the “unofficial start of summer”? Is it just the day when my mom decides it’s finally warm enough to take the flannel sheets off the bed, much to my step-father’s joy? No, it means more than that. I think we’ve lost sight of the meaning behind Memorial Day.
So, what is it? We’re obviously supposed to remember something. Is it our car keys? Did we leave the iron on? Are we supposed to pay our bills? No, it goes far deeper than that. On Memorial Day, we need to remember those who fought and died to protect the basic freedoms we enjoy. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be allowed to be in this place today, worshiping as we see fit. They sacrificed their lives so that ours would be free.
I’m sure that everyone here either served or knows someone serving in the Armed Forces. People willing to give their lives for something they feel is bigger than themselves. Some of us were lucky enough to come home to our families and loved ones. Some weren’t. Today is the day we honor those who stayed behind and gave the ultimate sacrifice for God and their country. Today is a day to say thank you and promise never to forget what they did for us.
This weekend, as we enjoy our picnics, our fellowship and good weather, I’d ask that we simply take a moment to remember those who made it possible for us to do so without fear of punishment and say a silent “thank you.” And maybe we could also spare a moment for those keeping the watch now who can’t be with their friends and family. They still have a job to do.