Posted by: mikenicholsblog | May 28, 2017

in honor and remembrance

Memorial Day carries significant meaning in the United States. However, the meaning is often minimized by other activities of the day. Most Americans are patriotic and want to honor those who have sacrificed for our country, but family activities and holiday cookouts dominate. We all love to be with family, but there should be a bit of reflection on what this day means for all of us. Both my father and father-in-law were veterans, but far too often I have let the externals of the day displace thoughts about the magnitude of sacrifice that’s been necessary to gain and protect our freedom. You may feel the same, so the following words are meant to help you more thoroughly enjoy the day.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May. It marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its unofficial end.
— Wikipedia

We all know the definition of this day, but many stop short of celebrating it truly. The day does also provide a wonderful opportunity to remind ourselves of those in our lives who have served but are still living. In recognizing a group of veterans at church yesterday, I was reminded of the pride each man/woman felt in giving a part of themselves to defend our freedom. Later this year we will specifically celebrate Veteran’s Day, but it is never too early (or often) to say thanks.

Another tradition of Memorial Day is the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb is a monument to American service members who died without their physical remains identified. Presidents have traditionally participated in this honor. The dedication of the men and women who guard the tomb is astounding and worthy of our attention as we celebrate today. Note some questions and facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier taken from SOCIETY OF THE HONOR GUARD, TOMB of the UNKNOWN SOLDIER.

• Tomb Guards work on a three Relief team rotation with 24-hour shifts. The average Sentinel takes 8 hours to prep their uniform for the next work day.

• The distance a guard “walks” on each pass by the Tomb is exactly 21 steps. This corresponds with the twenty-one gun salute, which is the highest honor given to any military or foreign dignitary.

• A Tomb Guard marches 21 steps across a black mat, past the final resting places of the Unknown Soldiers of World War I, World War II, Korea, and the crypt of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War. With a crisp turn, the guard turns 90 degrees (not about-face) to face east for 21 seconds. They turn a sharp 90 degrees again to face north for 21 seconds. A crisp “shoulder-arms” movement places the rifle on the shoulder nearest the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the tomb and any threat. After the moment, the sentinel paces 21 steps north, turns and repeats the process.

• The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, there has been a guard on duty in front of the Tomb every minute of every day since 1937.

As you celebrate today, let the facts above remind you of the bravery of our soldiers, known and unknown, living and deceased. They have secured our freedom and we ought never to let the trappings of the holiday rob us of reflecting on the price that’s been paid. The dedication of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier should give us pause to reflect on how solemn and meaningful our honoring and celebrating should be.

There is another tomb we should honor today … it’s an empty one. All Christ-followers are soldiers who were given freedom by the Savior who died for them and then rose again from that Tomb. Can it be said of you and me that our dedication matches that of the guards? Father, may it be so for Your glory, in service to the kingdom.

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