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Monday, May 31, 2021

Nothing to Celebrate

Today is Memorial Day. Rhonda and I will no doubt continue our tradition of visiting a local graveyard to seek out graves with flags on them. We’re looking for ultimate patriots—those who not only served their country, but died in the process. That is why we have a Memorial Day.

Try as I might, I can’t think of anyone I’ve known personally who died in combat. In my Air Force days, we processed many people to Vietnam for temporary or long term assignments. Very few could I say were friends. None of them died. Nor any high school friends.

It’s a stunning thing to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. And it is even more graphic to visit military graveyards and to see the places where some of our youngest soldiers have been laid to rest. Or at least that’s what we say.

The website gives us some important background for how this day came to be recognized: “On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. ‘The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,’ he proclaimed.”

Back then, it was known as Decoration Day. That’s because there was no particular battle associated with the date. And on the first Decoration Day, a ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery. General James Garfield made a speech, and 5000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.

Truth be told, Memorial Day is about heartbreak. Not celebration. We’ve turned it into something far less meaningful than it should be.

US Army veteran and retired Colonel David Dodd served more than 27 years in the military, including two deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan. He is a man of deep faith, a husband and father. When asked to give some suggestions for recognizing Memorial Day, he offered this practical input.

If and when possible, try to spend the day with friends, family, fellow military members, and veterans. This is a time to share memories, reflect on the sacrifice made by fallen warriors and their families, and discover new ways to encourage those who are serving and have served.

Children need to relate to the reality of sacrifice of our military men and women. That service to America includes training, deployments, combat, and prolonged separations that resulted in missed holidays, sporting events, birthdays, anniversaries, births of children, funerals of loved ones, and so many other key life events. Teach kids the importance of military service and to pray for those who serve.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (ESV)

Perhaps you have no connection to those who have lost their lives in the military. But I hope you’ll be inspired by their courage. Bottom line, make this a meaningful event on the calendar.

Because it is. But really, it’s hardly a “celebration.” 

P.S. Consider making a Memorial Day gift to a military group like or one of the other wonderful organizations that support our veterans.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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