(From: The National Memorial Day– by Ernest F.M. Faehtz, Grand Army of the Republic, 1870)
The lowering skies and descending mists enjoin us to be brief. Above these clouds the sun is shining, and so above graves that enshrine the ashes of our loved and lost we strew the flowers. Not only here and in neighboring cemeteries, but in hundreds of unknown graves our brave soldiers are sleeping. Beneath deserted battlefields and near distant camp and hospital, their resting-place unmarked, no mother’s tears today fall upon their graves; no sister’s band strews flowers there; no brother bends the knee; no father stands bowed beside their last resting-place. Their graves unknown, they are not on this anniversary forgotten; they are missed from the family circle; loving hearts remember them; tearful eyes seek to recall their image, and we may say for them in their distant sepulchers, and for these soldiers’ resting-places near at hand, that were our thoughts, our memories, our emotions but flowers, their graves would be covered with perpetual bloom. These men fell fighting for the flag, the emblem of liberty, of unity, of nationality, of peace! We may not break this stillness by recalling even the echoes of the warlike scenes amidst which they offered up their lives. We cannot, however, but call your attention to the contrast between those scenes of war and these peaceful emblems—between their graves and these flowers that smile above them. And this symbolic ceremony of today is typical of a great truth of God’s dealing with the race, and epitomizes the story of this epoch in our nation’s history.
“Perfect through suffering.” That is God’s great lesson for each soldier, for each man and woman, for each nation, for the entire race. “Hebrews 2.9: But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour… 10: For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
Veteran soldiers, wars may end, but great principles never perish. Are you still valiant soldiers? Are you following the Great Captain of all the ages, even Jesus Christ? Through him, are you seeking freedom from the bondage of those sinful appetites and passions that daily would enslave your souls? From out these graves there comes the voice, pointing you to this greatest Martyr, this only Saviour and Redeemer, calling you to fight his battles, to take up daily the cross of self- denial and duty, and to follow him; and these voices of the dead seem to re-echo in warning tones to you who live the Master’s call to life-long service the Master’s promise, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.”
These flowers, we have said, are flowers of hope: Hope—that the resurrection morning will prove the truth of’ these symbols of spring’s victory over the grave of winter;
From the grave of war may there bloom the flowers of peace “now and forever “! In returning from these ceremonies we leave our dead with God, crowning with floral (emblems of the resurrection) their honored graves.