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  Memorial Day 

 

Now that our sons, our brothers, our grandchildren are fighting all over the world it is especially fitting that we celebrate this 

"Memorial Day."

In the tradition of our Founding Fathers they are fighting for freedom.  Ask any of them.  They will tell you, "It is freedom we want for our country and for all men."

As I write these words I am reminded of the very first battles fought for our country (in the seventeen hundreds) and of the men who fought and died in those battles.

Today when we think of our fighting forces we visualize planes and helicopters, city-size ships and armored vehicles, machine guns and rockets, well trained troops and attractively uniformed men.

Yesterday (only 233 years ago!) the American troops wore buck skins (when they could get them), their muskets were loaded one shell by one shell; the cannons had to be dragged (literally) over mountain trails.  In the winter season of the year the fighting ceased while the troops (ours-not the British) were preparing for the next skirmish.

Have you read of "Valley Forge"?  Of course you have!  Let us read again about that time of the deepest trials of our soldier boys in that first great war that made possible our present great U.S. fighting forces.

 

THE CONTINENTAL ARMY-A MEMORIAL

by Henry Armitt Brown, an outstanding orator of his day 1

The wind is cold and piercing on the old Gulf Road, and the snowflakes have begun to fall. Who is this that toils up yonder hill, his footsteps stained with blood?  "His bare feet peep through his worn-out shoes, his legs nearly naked from the tattered remains of an only pair of stockings, his breeches not enough to cover his nakedness, his shirt hanging in strings, his hair dishevelled, his face wan and thin, his look hungry, his whole appearance that of a man forsaken and neglected."  On his shoulder he carries a rusty gun, and the hand that grasps the stock is blue with cold.  His comrade is no better off, nor he who follows....and the ruts of the rough country road are deep and frozen hard.  A fourth comes into view, and still another....(M)ore... come....A thousand are in sight, but they are but the vanguard of the motley company that winds down the road until it is lost in the cloud of snow-flakes that have hidden the Gulf hills.

Here is one in a faded blue, faced with buckskin that has once been buff.  There is another on a tall, gaunt horse, wrapped "in a sort of dressing-gown made of an old blanket or woollen bed cover."  A few of the men wear long linen hunting shirts reaching to the knee, but of the rest no two are dressed alike-not half have shirts, a third are barefoot, many are in rags.  Nor are their arms the same.  Cowhorns and tin boxes they carry for want of pouches. A few have swords, fewer still have bayonets.  Muskets, carbines, fowling-pieces, and rifles are to be seen together side by side.  Are these soldiers that huddle together and bow their heads as they face the biting wind?  Is this an army that comes straggling through the valley in the blinding snow?  No martial music leads them in triumph into a captured capital.  No city full of good cheer and warm and comfortable homes awaits their coming.  No sound keeps time to their steps save the icy wind rattling the leafless branches and the dull tread of their weary feet on the frozen ground.  In yonder forest must they find their shelter, and on the northern slope of these inhospitable hills their place of refuge.  Perils shall soon assault them more threatening than any they encountered under the windows of Chew's house or by the banks of Brandywine.  Trials that rarely have failed to break the fortitude of men await them here.  False friends shall endeavor to undermine their virtue and secret enemies to shake their faith; the Congress whom they serve shall prove helpless to protect them, and their country herself seem unmindful of their sufferings;  Cold shall share their habitations, and Hunger enter in and be their constant guest;  Disease shall infest their huts by day, and Famine stand guard with them through the night;  Frost shall lock their camp with icy fetters, and the snows cover it as with a garment; the storms of winter shall be pitiless-but all in vain.  Danger shall not frighten nor temptation have power to seduce them.  Doubt shall not shake their love of country nor suffering overcome their fortitude.  The powers of evil shall not prevail against them, for they are the Continental Army, and these are the hills of Valley Forge! (End)

 

What a memorial!  And they arenít over yet.  Memorials will always be where free men gather to honor the God who makes them possible and then recognize the exploits of their countrymen.  But when did "Memorial Days" begin?  You may be surprised when you begin to think about the fact that there have been memorial days from the beginning of time!  In fact, we have actually been commanded to have "Memorial Days" and the specific time was often stated along with the command, And thou shalt remember...., (Deuteronomy 8:4).

As we celebrate "Memorial Day" this year it is good for us not only to remember but, as our God has told us, teach our memorable events:

Diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:7)

 

 

And here is a patriotic poem about our flag to read on Memorial Day.

 


Footnote to oration: Brown, Henry Armitt, quoted in The Christian History of the American Revolution (aka: C&P); Foundation for American Christian Education (FACE), publishers, Chesapeake, Virginia, p. 58, col. 1, para. B & col. 2


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