So asks The San Francisco Chronicle. The writer states: “In many major recreation settings, parties, beer and fights have taken over the summer’s three-day holidays.” He describes a series of fights at one local site, with 23 arrests. Another local resort has seen so many fights and illegal activities that the federal government now makes it off-limits on holiday weekends.
Last Memorial Day weekend, Texas troopers arrested 460 people for driving while intoxicated and issued 5,036 speeding citations. Other states have similar problems on their roads over the holiday. Over one recent Memorial Day weekend, 397 people were killed in automobile crashes; 40 percent were alcohol related.
Memorial Day was intended to be a time for the nation to remember those who have died defending our country. The first Memorial Days were held in 1866 for Confederate and Union soldiers. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day was observed across the country on May 30; the date was likely chosen because flowers would be in bloom. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to honor those who died in all American wars. Today that number exceeds 1.1 million women and men.
How can we best remember them? Let’s follow an example I first encountered some years ago in Israel. On May 5 every year, the entire nation stops to remember those who gave their lives in defense of the State of Israel and those who have been murdered by terrorists since the 1948 founding of the nation. Sirens sound and the entire population stops whatever they are doing. Our group was in a tour bus on that day; the driver pulled over to the side of the road, joining drivers across the nation, and we all stood outside for a time of reflection.
The American version of this ceremony is called the National Moment of Remembrance. Today at 3 P.M. local time, stop for a minute of silence. Thank God for the sacrifice of those who died to defend your freedom. Ask God for his healing and peace for their survivors. And thank the Father for your liberty, purchased at so high a cost.
Twenty-four centuries ago, the Athenian leader Pericles offered this tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.” May the same be true of us for our fallen heroes today.
And may we remember the ultimate sacrifice: the One who was crucified that we might live, who was made sin that we might be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). I recently met a severely wounded veteran, and thanked him for his service. He smiled and said, “You are worth it.”
Jesus says the same to you today.