Friday’s Essay - Memorial Day in Weirton


Below is the podcast of an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays, sermons, devotions, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information. 


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I had a special honor this past week. You see, I was asked to give the invocation and benediction at Weirton’s Community Memorial Day Service. And even though I always see it as a privilege to take part in community events, for the last few years, I’ve had some concerns about how we celebrate Memorial Day. You see, recently we seemed to have veered away from what the day means and why it’s been set apart. Let me explain. The focus has been on patriotism and veterans. The tone has been upbeat and the speakers have talked about the importance of caring for those who have served. And this has concerned me. Now before I say anything else, please don’t get me wrong; I believe both are important, but we have other days to celebrate them, namely the Fourth of July and Veterans Day in November. But on Memorial Day, we do sometime different than celebrating country and the armed forces. On the last Monday of May, we remember those who didn’t come home, in other words, those who died in service, fulfilling the words of Christ when he said, “Greater love has no one than he give his life for his friends.” You see, for me, this is a serious, prayerful, meditative day, something that can get lost amid the bunting. And so, as I approached the service, I felt a inner conflict. On one hand, as I said, I was deeply honored to be involved. On the other hand, I was hoping that our attention would be clear and focused at this special service.


And I’m pleased to say that my hope was realized. Although this may sound a little like hyperbole, I believe this was the best Memorial Day service I’ve seen since my family and I moved to Weirton. And I’m not saying that just because God gave us a “drop down” beautiful day. I think the whole service captured the solemn appreciation as well as the joy-filled hope that’s appropriate on a day for remembrance. At the same time, it also included a challenge to us all as we move into the future guided by those who sacrificed in the past. And even though I think this atmosphere permeated the whole service, it was particularly strong in the speech given by Jim Bissett, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam. He kept his remarks focused on the reason we’d gathered. And by doing that, he made the service particularly meaningful to me, although I didn’t have the chance to thank him after it was over. It was a wonderful experience.


But just because we’re now on the first Friday of June and Memorial Day has passed, it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the what the day actually means. You see, in my opinion, we should never forget those who laid down their lives for a cause greater than themselves nor should we forget that their sacrifice presents a genuine challenge for us all. As Abraham Lincoln said at the end of the Gettysburg Address: 

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.