Memorial Day

Rev. Kevin Airrington

Memorial Day
May 26, 2014
Siskiyou Memorial Park, Medford,Oregon

Star Spangled Banner


It is an honor to come before you on this special day and offer these words honoring our veterans who are with us, and those fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. It is also a privilege to remember with you our loved ones who have left this world before us.

The first Memorial Day was not called Memorial Day. It is believed to have been celebrated with a parade of freed slaves and Union soldiers marching through Charleston, South Carolina in 1865.

Waterloo, New York, is considered the official birthplace of Memorial Day because after it was observed there on May 5, 1866, General John Murray and General John A. Logan called on all communities to honor the war dead every year.

Memorial Day….What do you think of when you think of Memorial Day – the beginning of summer vacation, barbecues in the back yard, family get-togethers, maybe you are looking forward to the Indy 500? It hasn’t always been this way.
In most churches Memorial Day is ignored because it is not one of the holy days on the church calendar. But I believe that it would be good for us today, May 26th, 2014 to consider what Memorial Day really represents, for its very name calls us to remember.

The ability to remember is a wonderful gift God has given us. In a flash we can be a child again, skipping rocks across a pond, or walking in a meadow. Through memory we can fall in love, get married, & enjoy our children all over again. All this is possible through the blessing of memory.

Some of our memories are happy as we recall wonderful experiences. But some are sad, & we may weep as we remember them.

Memories are also very practical. If we couldn’t remember that a red light means “stop” we’d be in trouble. If you weren’t able to remember what day it is, or your anniversary or wife’s birthday – you’d be in big trouble. So yes, memories are practical too.

The Gospel of John, chapter 15, verses 13 & 14 paint a perfect picture of what Memorial Day is:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Memorial Day grew out of the human need to remember where we have been. Only then can we figure out where we are going. The cherished memories of a nation, a town, a church, or a family provide the values and dream that one generation passes on to the next. Forgetting means dropping the torch.

All of this was on the mind of President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 as he made his way to the Pennsylvania battlefield. He feared that he might be the last president of the United States. After a three day Battle in the fields of Gettysburg, PA during the Civil War; the country teetered on the brink of self-destruction. The ceremony that afternoon would dedicate the site of the cemetery for the over forty thousand soldiers killed at Gettysburg in the three-day battle the previous July. Lincoln’s remarks provided the seedbed for what would become Memorial Day.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” he began. Less than two minutes later, he concluded, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here (this of course he was referring to the sacrifice of the soldiers). It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

The speaker before Lincoln, Edward Everett, was one of the most popular public speakers of his day. He spoke for two hours. Yet Everett admitted to Lincoln, “I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Lincoln’s own words would not fall true…he said, “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” however his 2 minute speech continues to echo in the American memory. Even I as I began sharing portions of Lincoln’s speech — the Gettysburg Address with you…you were recalling it and perhaps were saying it with me.

Over the next few years, many communities set aside special days to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. Some services were held with little fan fare. Others involved marching bands and speeches. All included decorating soldier’s graves with flowers and flags. Most towns referred to the event as Decoration Day. After World War I the day expanded to honor the American heroes of all wars. Gradually the custom of decorating the graves of relatives and friends became a part of the day.

Eventually the official name was changed to Memorial Day. Originally, the day always fell on May 30. In 1971 congress moved the date to the last Monday in May.

Why Memorial Day? Because we don’t want to forget. What do we remember?

Today is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a holiday set aside to remember certain events and certain people in history. We especially remember those who have died—those close to us: parents, grandparents, children and loved ones. We also remember those who have been taken in war or other tragic events.

We remember the death of the 3,000 men and women, boys and girls, who died on September 11, as evil men flew two airplanes into the Twin Towers in New York City. We remember the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust; we remember the faithful Texans who fought against Santa Ana and his Mexican army. Their rallying cry was “Remember the Alamo.”

I was watching the history channel one night, as they told the story of the Titanic and the tragic death of

1, 500 passengers. In 1986, Dr. Robert Ballard, who was responsible for locating the Titanic, placed a memorial plaque on the stern of the ship. It reads: “In memory of those souls who perished with the “Titanic” April 14 & 15, 1912. Dedicated to William H. Tantum, IV whose dream to find “Titanic” has been realized by Dr. Robert D. Ballard. The officers and members of the Titanic Historical Society Inc. 1986″


And so, today we remember—we remember our loved ones, we remember our soldier heroes—those who have fought for freedom, and we remember the saints, those Christians who fought for spiritual freedom. I have just three final points to my message—three things we must never forget:


The freedoms you and I enjoy today have come to us through tremendous sacrifice. The right to keep and bear arms, the right to own property, the right to come and goes as we please, the right to speak our mind without fear of being arrested…the right to worship God or not to worship God in any manner we choose…all of the privileges and rights we enjoy today have been made possible by men & women who gave a sacrifice beyond measure.

Robert E. Lee, at Fredericksburg said,
“It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”—.

Let me emphasize these words to you “freedom isn’t free.” Every freedom we enjoy as American’s was purchased and has been preserved by many who paid a sacrifice beyond measure. The freedoms we enjoy were not free!


Remember, our family and our friends who have left this world for a better world. Remember, how they impacted your life. As I speak these words I can find no better way to articulate what I need to say than to quote my daughter, Rosebud Airrington…she was just 10 years old when she wrote these words:

“A person may be dead and buried, but if we are lucky they will never be forgotten.” I thought it was interesting that she said, “IF WE WERE LUCKY.” If WE are lucky…shouldn’t it be if THEY are lucky? I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant. Then she went on…”it was her 72nd birthday, on March 3rd, 1012 when my Nana took her last breath on earth and her very next breath she took in Heaven. A grave marker or a tombstone is not my Nana and it is not your loved one. I watched my brothers and my cousins carry the box that held the body that once held the life of my Nana to the place where she would be buried.   Her marker will serve as a memory of her. It is important to me and I know that your loved one’s marker is important to you. But remember, nothing lasts forever and these markers will not be here forever either…I will never forget my Nana…” WOW! I should have just repeated my daughter at the beginning of my message and I would have been done!





I want us to remember the words found in the Gospel of John, the 15th chapter, versus 13-14.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Those were the very Words of Jesus Christ. I want us to remember, who gave His life for His friends…gave His life out of love. Please, this Memorial Day, as you lay flowers and wreaths on the graves of soldiers, family members and friends…as you partake in family BBQs…the Hamburgers, Hotdogs and the watermelon: Please remember the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE that took place 2,000 years ago just outside the City walls of Jerusalem on a hill called Calvary. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the most significant event in all history!


God Bless all of you…thank you so much for having me…enjoy the rest of your Memorial Celebration.


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