Remembering Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

Retired Army Chaplain Reflects on Freedom and Sacrifice

This graffiti poem was written on a wall in New York City:

God and the soldier doth all men adore in time of war and not before;

When the war is over and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.

Believe it or not, this was written on January 30, 1770, and was signed by the 16th Regiment of Foot. Our Nation has come a long way since then.

Memorial Day is one way that our nation insures that not one of its service members or their families is slighted, and that God is never forgotten.

Did you know that Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, and it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves? General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers, declared on May 5, 1868, in General Order No. 11 that:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

Since that time, we have used this day to honor all those who left home and family in time of war to serve their nation and the cause of liberty, and did not return. Many remain buried in the foreign soil they died to defend. Memorial Day is designed to remind us of the price that was paid to deliver us from tyranny, and to preserve our liberty.

Jesus addressed this succinctly when he said, “The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.” John 15.13

On Memorial Day, we remember those who loved their country more than life itself, and sacrificed themselves so that their children – and all children – could grow up in freedom and safety. We should pay close attention to this often glossed over verse of the song “America the Beautiful”:

O beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

This Memorial Day, let us make the time to honor those heroic Americans who laid down their lives for their friends. Let’s pray for their families, who have an empty place at their table. Finally, let us be reminded, and let us teach our children, that because freedom is so valuable, it comes at a high cost.

This Memorial Day, you can help provide a Bible to our nation’s heroes

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Art Pace
Art Pace

Chaplain (Colonel) Art Pace, retired, is the executive director for the Armed Services Ministry of the American Bible Society. He served 30 years as a U.S. Army chaplain. His assignments included Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, Germany, Korea, Fort Jackson, and the Army War College. He was also assigned to the Pentagon when it was attacked on September 11, 2001. He provided pastoral care to the burned survivors of that attack. He retired from active duty on August 17, 2012, and on August 27, 2012 joined the American Bible Society.

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