The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865. It claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and subsequently required the establishment of our country’s first national cemeteries. While families gathered to remember their fallen loved ones, the national scene also took notice. On May 5, 1866, Waterloo, New York became the birthplace of what we now know as Memorial Day.
It was celebrated, but not in the way of triumph or rejoicing. This celebration was felt in tones of the heart that gave thanks for the many men and women who died in battle serving our country. The number of fallen soldiers now line the fields of honor from wars over the span of these many years. Waterloo was only the beginning of remembrance.
I suppose that somewhere in this narrative a skilled orator might pull a Biblical application for the delight of the reader. I confess that it is my most natural instinct. Nevertheless, I wish only to say “thank you” to the tens of thousands who gave their life for my freedom. Our liberties did not come easy; they were purchased by the blood of people we will never know. The plight of our nation is made possible by the choice of so many; we can barely imagine the loss.
The World Wars were supposed to bring an end to the earth’s conflicts, but we know that no such thing can exist. The cost of freedom will grow and we will live, hopefully, free from tyranny. The ability of the church to thrive in this country rests on the shoulders of freedom bearers. The liberty to worship without governmental oversight or mob rule has allowed us the privilege to both gather and evangelize our communities. Many nations do now allow evangelism and in some countries, it is illegal to be converted to Christianity. We don’t know how blessed we truly are.
Graves tell the story. Those lined nameless, white crosses represent the men and women who paid the price for our religious freedom. Moreover, Memorial Day, while it boasts of car races, baseball games, and backyard barbecues is really about honoring the fallen who protected the unsuspecting citizen.
Perhaps too little attention is given to the reason for this “celebrated day.” Maybe the lack of knowledge has caused us to lose the feeling of hushed tones and broken hearts. Waterloo is a place of memorial that launched a bid for reverence. Each year on Memorial Day there is a national time of remembrance, which occurs at 3:00 pm local time. It is a moment of silence that gives pause to the noise of aimless ambition and helps us know that someone, somewhere, spilled their life’s blood for our sake. We honor you, our fallen hero.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole