Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day: What's in a name?

"Render therefore to all their due. . . tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (Romans 13:7, KJV)

For some reason I've always loved that verse. On Memorial Day, it makes sense. On this, of all days, it is good and right to recognize those to whom honor is due.

But you know, Memorial Day was first called "Decoration Day." After the Civil War, a special day was set aside for decorating the graves of Union soldiers who had died during the war. And then there were more wars, so Decoration Day was expanded to include decorating the graves of soldiers who died in World War I. Then World War II. Then Korea. . . .

So many graves to decorate.

Finally the name was officially changed to "Memorial Day." It's not nearly so common for us to go to cemeteries and put flowers and flags on graves any more. But we can still remember. We can still give honor to whom honor is due.

But sometimes we forget. Memorial Day weekend is a busy time. We're excited to kick off the beginning of summer, and Monday is more a holiday that makes a three-day weekend for us than a day for special remembrance.

It strikes me, though, that there is one group of Americans who always remember. The servicemen and women who are still living never forget to honor their fallen comrades. I was named for my mother's brother, Richard. He's a veteran, a Purple Heart recipient. He could have been one of those for whom this day is set aside, but he survived. Believe me, he never forgets to honor those who did not survive.

To all those who have fallen in the service of our country, we give honor. We pause to think just how much we owe to those brave men and women who have given their all.

And we are so grateful.


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