Not long after the Civil War ended, about 1,000 freed slaves, members of the U.S. Colored Troops, and some locals organized a ceremony to bury Union troops who died due to horrendous conditions at a prison that was formerly a racetrack, History.com reports. They honored the dead by singing hymns and placing flowers on their graves. An archway over the cemetery was engraved with the words "Martyrs of the Race Course."
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. But Memorial Day didn't actually become an official federal holiday until 1971.
Today it would seem that we are fighting and praying for the continued existence of America—for the America that we know, love and stand ready to fight for. The battle we fight today is only won or lost because of the men and women who have gone before us and fought for what they knew was the greatest country on the face of this earth.
This week, we buried my brother-in-law. He fought bravely in Vietnam and was one of the fortunate ones who came home. At the gravesite was a military honor guard who gave their time to honor one of their own. The ceremony was very moving, and my wife had never experienced anything like it.
That evening, we talked about what the day meant to me as a veteran—that regardless of the circumstances, there is something special and reverent when a soldier is saying goodbye to a fellow comrade. I made a feeble attempt to try to explain to her the camaraderie we feel toward our brothers and sisters who served. It was difficult to put into words, but I suspect that this Memorial Day, her brothers and sisters will not just think about the loss of their brother but have a renewed spirit of patriotism. Hopefully, this Memorial day, they—and all of us—will look at the flag a bit differently than ever before.
It's sad today that so many young people have been raised with no sense of God and country, but we place our hope in the sovereignty of our Lord; surely this country is blessed like none other. If we never have before, we must stand proudly as we place our flag in front of our house, and hopefully fly it not only on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but every day of the year, reminding all that we live in the greatest country on earth. It is a country given to us by the Founding Fathers, who were guided by God and who understood values and Judeo-Christian principles.
Psalm 27:3-4 says, "Though an army besieges me, my heart will not fear; though war breaks out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple."
Today, we need pause to reflect on the sacrifice made by those who paid the ultimate price on behalf of our nation. We will pray their sacrifices are never forgotten, nor is the pain of their families. We acknowledge that freedom comes at a cost and pray that we can pursue peace and someday celebrate Memorial Day as a long-ago memory of the time before we started living the peaceful existence God intended for us since the beginning of creation.
Let's pray in remembrance of the fallen. Our Founding Fathers gave us this country, and though they were smart men, it becomes more obvious every day they were men guided by a God who was raising up America. The blood of so many Americans has kept the America given to us by these men and our God. Let's not forget this on Memorial Day 2019. Let's fight through prayer, strength, convictions and the voting booth to keep this country for generations to come. On this Memorial Day, we need to pray for peace and for those who gave all.
This Memorial Day, as you fly our flag, will you do it in honor of those who were willing to give up their lives so we may live ours freely?
(Dan Celia is president and CEO of Financial Issues Stewardship Ministries, Inc., and host of the nationally syndicated radio and television program "Financial Issues," heard daily on more than 650 stations across the country and reaching millions of households on several TV networks. Visit www.financialissues.org.)