Memorial Day was first officially observed on May 5, 1868. On that day, General John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a proclamation establishing May 30 as the annual observance of this occasion. He spoke of honoring soldiers, sailors and marines who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and became an official federal holiday in 1971, dedicated to honor Civil War soldiers. Today we honor the memory of all who fought for, defended and died for our country’s freedoms while serving in the U.S. military
A May 28, 2007, Memorial Day communication of unknown origin states: To those who died securing peace and freedom, who served in conflict to protect our land and sacrificed their dreams of the day to preserve the hope of our nation to keep America the land of the free for over two centuries, we owe our thanks and our honor. It is important not only to recognize their service but also to respect their devotion to duty and to ensure that the purpose for which they fought will never be forgotten.
Willingness to sacrifice even life itself was demonstrated early in the War for Independence, as Captain Nathan Hale was captured by the British and executed as a spy. His dying words were: “I only regret that I have but one life to give/lose for my country.”
Those words exemplify the resolve of America’s soldiers, airmen, marines, National Guard and naval personnel—men and women who are willing to sacrifice life and limb to protect and defend the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.
In a much more significant way, with eternal ramifications, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
It is always both appropriate and important to thank God for those in our military services who died while defending and protecting our country and to pray for those who still do. I invite you to join in the Prayer for Armed Forces of our Nation (LSB, p. 315):
Lord God of hosts, stretch forth your almighty arm to strengthen and protect those who serve in the armed forces of our country. Support them in times of war, and in times of peace keep them from all evil, giving them courage and loyalty. Grant that in all things they may serve with integrity and with honor; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.