Memorial Day had its origin as Decoration Day, a day set aside to honor those who lost their lives in the Civil War by placing flowers on their gravesites.
Although the Civil War was America’s most costly war with some 620,000 lives lost, Decoration Day wouldn’t become a national holiday for nearly a century, until after the two World Wars and the Korean War cost America another 559,000 lives.
In the midst of the Vietnam War, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day to honor all servicemen who died in the line of duty in any war or engagement. It became an official national holiday when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, legislation that changed the dates of a number of American holidays so that they would fall on Mondays, thus creating three-day weekends for federal employees.
While remembering those who lost their lives in serving America in wartime is a central purpose of this holiday, Memorial Day takes on its deepest meaning when we connect it with our roots.
Americans were unique in sacrificing their treasure and giving their lives to found the first country in history establishing that all people have natural rights—of living in freedom, having equal value, and being able to pursue opportunity and happiness. These rights as expressed by the Declaration of Independence came from God and were thus unalienable—that is they couldn’t be infringed upon or taken away by the state or any ruling authority.
The U.S. Constitution, drafted to protect these rights, prescribed a representative and limited government with the checks and balances of three branches, and at the same time embraced a federalist system of state laws and authority which also checked the federal government—a system designed to ensure accountability to its citizens whose vote and consent gave legitimacy to it all.
There were times and places in human history when there were nation-states of cultural achievement, virtue, and efflorescence, such as in Periclean Athens, in the Florence of the Medicis, and in England of Elizabeth and Shakespeare.
But none was founded in the way the United States was—that is, by a collection of human genius who prayerfully approached drafting a constitution that would mitigate corruption and abuse of power, while also protecting the citizens’ unalienable God-given rights and providing them the opportunity to achieve their dreams and rise to levels closer to the divine image in which all were created than would be possible under any government previously conceived anywhere in the world.
For the first time in human history, a government was established by the people and for the people, with its legitimacy established exclusively by the peoples’ vote that balanced the interests of the large population states with the smaller states through the Electoral College.
It was these ideas at that time in history that made the founding of the United States absolutely unique and exemplary—probably the most profound single event in shaping the modern world and continuing to influence other nations worldwide well into the 20th century.
Thus, when Americans sacrificed their lives in military service, it wasn’t just to defend the United States, it was also to uphold the natural rights and transcendent values associated with the nation’s founding that was understood to provide inspiration for others worldwide.
Thus, after remembering and honoring men and women who lost their lives in serving their country this Memorial Day, it also seems appropriate to ask how we are doing as a nation in living up to the ideals of the founding. Said another way, what is the current state of patriotism in America? How is our government measuring up and how are we faring as citizens?
Although denial runs deep, a cloud hangs over America from the November 2020 elections. And that cloud is getting darker with substantial evidence of voting irregularities surfacing on several fronts, such as the forensic audit of election tabulation in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Should findings of various pattern irregularities be substantiated in a vote recount that changes the electoral outcome in Arizona, it should be incumbent on the people of other states with similar irregularities to undertake similar forensic audits. The legitimacy of our elected government comes only from the people and that must be determined by them and not by who counts the votes or how machines count the vote.
On the second front, Americans are rapidly losing their rights and increasingly flying blind. With censorship and cancel culture being a fait accompli in the mainstream and social media, many are simply ignorant of critically important developments, such as the flood of illegal aliens crossing our southern border and also the demoralization taking place within all branches of the military due to the Biden administration’s reinstatement of the racially divisive Critical Race Theory training and indoctrination.
Memorial Day reminds us that U.S. military personnel are asked to put their lives on the line. Defending the nation and fighting wars is the most serious and important job of all. There simply is no place for programs or policies that would divide our troops or demoralize our soldiers.
In sum, this year—2021—Memorial Day takes on a greater two-fold meaning than it has previously. We are called to remember those who died in military service to the country and recommit to the conviction that those lives lost shall never be in vain.
Equally important, we are called to remember and internalize a heritage that began with a courageous, brilliant, and faithful group of founders, who risked their lives for the birth of freedom and the creation of a new nation based on an accountable government—a constitutional republic—whose legitimacy resides solely with the people and whose primary responsibility is to serve and protect the people.