Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, is observed each year on the last Monday of May. One of the first official Memorial Day proclamations was made in 1868 by General John Logan, who was serving as Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This began the tradition of placing flowers on the graves of all the Union and Confederate service members at Arlington National Cemetery.
The essence of this national day of remembrance is to honor the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. Perhaps the most recognized symbol of Memorial Day is the red poppy worn by many to symbolize their affinity with those who made the ultimate sacrifice. In 1918 Moina Michael read John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" and was so moved by his British devotion that she was inspired to write "We Shall Keep the Faith," a poem about the American war dead. This brief part of her poem gives the sense of her thoughts:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
Let us pause as I offer this prayer for Memorial Day:
Let us pray.
Lord God Almighty, whose only Son sought not to preserve his life but to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we might have abundant life, we remember this day the personal sacrifices made by many of our fellow citizens in the service of their country. On this day we pause, however briefly, to remember and recall those who gave the last measure of their lives for their faith, their country and their fellow compatriots in arms. The record of their courage is in the hands of history and the vestige of their lives is at rest in our memories. Grant that we and all the citizens of this land may have the grace to honor their good deeds as in righteousness we strive for peace among all the people of God's creation. Remembering their sacrifice, we rededicate ourselves to the tradition of courage that you, our Lord, have instilled in us. Give us a deep sense of reverence for life that is tempered by a passionate desire for justice. Continue in us the valor of those who have woven this tradition into the fabric of our country. This we pray in the name of the one God who creates, redeems and sustains. AMEN.