Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. — Hebrews 12:1-3
I have been to Arlington cemetery only one time. It was a cold, wet, gray day in February and we were there to bury my father. He served in the Air Force for 22 years, and for three conflicts. He was buried with full honors, though the fly over could not happen because of the weather. I dressed in my robe and put on my stole to stand and say the prayers necessary for the moment. It was, for me, a duty to be performed. I wanted to be in my uniform, wanted to stand tall, and wanted “to do my best to do my duty,” because that was what my father deserved.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Dat originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. It was a time to remember those who have fought for our country and are no longer with us. It is a time to consider what we have been given in the heritage of freedom and how we can, in the words of Abraham Lincoln:
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 here 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.
America the Beautiful
O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.
Almighty God, before whom stand the living and the dead, we your children, whose mortal life is but a hand’s breadth, give thank to you:
-For those through whom you have blessed our pilgrimage, whose lives have empowered us, whose influence is a healing grace.
-For dear friends and family members whose faces we see no more, but whose love is with us forever.
-For the teachers and companions of our childhood and youth, and for the members of our household of faith who worship you now in heaven.
-For those who sacrificed themselves, our brothers and sisters who have given their lives for the sake of others.
That we may hold them all in continual remembrance, and ever think of them as with you in that city whose gates are not shut by day and where there is no night. That we may be now be dedicated to working for a world where labor is rewarded, fear dispelled, and the nations made one, O Lord. Save your people and bless your heritage. Day by day we magnify you, and worship your name, for ever and ever. Amen.