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My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places.

Today is a day of remembrance. 

Memorial Day began as an occasion to honor and to remember soldiers who died serving their country during the Civil War. I have walked the cemeteries of Gettysburg. I got to see the vastness of the area, the immensity of it belies the scope of death and tragedy – the result of that horrific battle – thousands of American men and boys savagely killed.

Our current celebration of Memorial Day was inspired by the way people honored their dead after the end of World War I. People would go to cemeteries and put American flags on soldier’s graves, that’s why it was known as Decoration Day for a while. Memorial Day was later extended to include all American men and women who died serving their country in any military action or war.

On Memorial Day people often read a poem honoring fallen soldiers or look up family histories and honor those in our families who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We come here, to this place of rest, and we pray and reflect. One week after the Pearl Harbor attack President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who long enjoy such privileges that we enjoy forget in time that others have died to win them.” Freedom is never free; it is almost always bought with the blood of those who voluntarily or even reluctantly stepped forward. We live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places because they did step forward.

As I wander around my house, trying to recall what I was about to do, or searching for that thing I knew had to be there, I am confronted by the ease at which I can forget. Yet when this day, marked on the calendar arrives, when we gather here, I cannot help but remember that I live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places because others died for me.

In the Book of Joshua, God commanded that the men of Israel build a memorial of twelves stones to stand as a silent witness so that the generations would not forget. God had his people put up so many stones of remembrance and created so many celebrations and festivals so that they would remember the sacrifices and the instruction from God; so they would remember and not take for granted their lives in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.

It is vitally important that we remember those who died in battle on this day dedicated to them. The stones in Gettysburg, in Arlington, Saratoga, those here, and in cemeteries around the world are not just markers, but rather a commemoration – to help us call these things to mind. They stand as witness before us, calling us to make right choices, to consider before we act as a nation. To measure the value of every life sent to the front line.

The best way we can honor the men and women who gave their all for our freedom is to live lives marked by remembrance, gratitude for the gifts we enjoy, and to act in a way worthy of their sacrifice. As we live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places may we have this prayer on our lips: May our honored dead rest in peace. May their memory be eternal and remember, thankful for their sacrifice.