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Reflecting with the Rector: MEMORIAL DAY

I absolutely love Memorial Day Weekend, although I am not quite certain as to why.

As a Christian, or simply as a person, I find it challenging to know how to feel on such a day. I’m not aware of anyone in my family who died in service to our nation. I have no close friends who were killed while serving the military. More than that, I do not really believe there are many, if any, justifiable reasons to go to war.

And yet. I live in a nation where people of every demographic offer their time, their energy, and their very lives in service to our country. As of 2022, 1.18 million U.S. active-duty military personnel were stationed in the United States and its territories.i I have not served in the military, but I certainly enjoy the privileges men and women in our armed services sacrifice for.

And, while I may not believe war is ever justified, there are people across this world (inside and outside the United States) who do, and bad actors are always ready to capitalize on our country’s weaknesses.

Before I came to Church of Our Saviour, my most recent parish was in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the world, was immediately adjacent. The experience of living and working with entire family groups who build their lives around the service completely changed my perspective. I will never again be able to pretend that the death of an active military serviceperson was not a sacrifice from which I benefit.

And there's more to ponder about Memorial Day.

On May 5, 1868, Decoration Day was established by a veterans’ organization known as the Grand Army of the Republic. They set aside May 30th to adorn with flowers the graves of the Civil War dead. It is believed that this day was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance of Decoration Day was held at Arlington National Cemetery. By the end of the 19th century, “Memorial Day” ceremonies, as they became known, were being held across the United States. After World War I, the observances were expanded to honor those who had died in all American wars. Finally, in 1971 the United States Congress officially named Memorial Day as a national holiday, a time to remember and commemorate military personnel who have died in service to the nation.

Please enjoy Memorial Day weekend. I know I will. There are many reasons to reflect and also to celebrate. I always look forward to my family’s tradition of spending time outdoors together the last weekend in May. Yet I remind myself, and all of us, to take some moments to understand and appreciate the service members and their families who have made such immense sacrifices for privileges we all enjoy.

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