The Very Rev. Michael Sniffen, The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe...

The Very Rev. Michael Sniffen, The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr. and Rabbi Joel M. Levenson Credit: Yvonne Albinowski; Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr. ; Alex M Wolff

Memorial Day, to be observed on Monday, was established in the 19th century as Decoration Day, when flowers were placed on the graves of Civil War dead, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This week’s clergy discuss how they view the observance, which now honors fallen heroes of all U.S. wars.

Rabbi Joel M. Levenson

Midway Jewish Center; Chaplain, New York Army National Guard  

Memorial Day this year is observed just a few days prior to the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the June 6, 1944, Allied invasion of Normandy, which proved to be a turning point in World War II. On Memorial Day the nation pays moving — and collective — tribute to those who have fallen in defense of the country’s freedom. We owe the memory of our own soldiers no less, to recall the more than 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces and defeated the deadliest evils the world had ever seen. Their courage, valor and sacrifice helped save the world from the onslaught of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and Japanese militarism. The U.S. military cemeteries overseas and at home are powerful testimony to the high price we as a nation paid for our ultimate victory — nearly 300,000 battle deaths. It’s not easy to be an optimist these days. May the resolve of individuals of courage who literally saved the world 80 years ago inspire us to face our challenges with no less will and determination.

The Very Rev. Michael Sniffen

13th Dean of the Cathedral for Long Island; Chaplain, United States Navy  

On Memorial Day, we gather in reverence and gratitude, reflecting on the profound words of Jesus: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). This teaching encapsulates the essence of sacrificial love, a love that transcends self-interest and reaches the very heart of the Christian faith. As we honor the courageous men and women who have given their lives in service to our country, we remember that their sacrifice is a testament to this greatest love. They laid down their lives not just for friends they knew, but for generations of people they would never meet, embodying a spirit of unity and selflessness that mirrors the love Christ exemplified. In this spirit of remembrance, we commit to living out this radical love in our daily lives. We strive to build a world where peace prevails over conflict, where justice replaces oppression, and where we extend compassion to all, especially the marginalized and the forgotten. As we remember the fallen with prayers, parades and tributes, we also honor them by working tirelessly for a future where such sacrifices are no longer necessary. On Memorial Day, we embrace our sacred duty to carry forward their legacy of love, courage and selfless service.

The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City  

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of all the fallen soldiers who died in service of this country. While a secular holiday, it carries many religious and spiritual overtones. The day weighs heavy on my spirit in thinking about the collective loss of lives that families have suffered and the reasons for that loss. Thus, my sermon is a eulogy to those fallen soldiers and those they’ve left behind. A eulogy helps us to remember and reflect on those lost and then show those present a future hope. As Christ followers, we need to understand and look deeply at this day. We need to fully appreciate those who have given their lives while moving forward to build the beloved community and a future world where our actions are bathed in the light of peace and the unity of humanity. In other words, if we can focus on the root cause of why we have fallen soldiers in the first place, then we can turn our attention to changing the mentality of a nation that so quickly enters into conflicts and war to a nation that attends itself to the old African American spiritual that says, “Ain’t gonna study war no more!”

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