Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day & Red Poppies

It's not just about the hot dogs, brats, beer, boating and camping. Memorial Day is a national holiday that started after the Civil War, one remembrance day that has since become an entire long weekend. Families used to go to patriotic parades, attend gun salutes and place flowers on cemetery graves. Some still do, but for many it's now all about ball games, a lake getaway, BBQs and picnics, and a weekend to sleep in and/or get yardwork done.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.

Waterloo, NY was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966. But the origins of the holiday go back to the 1860s when those who died in the Civil War were honored and when General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed Memorial Day would be observed on May 30, 1868. Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The tradition continues.

In 1915, inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, Moina Michael replied with her own poem and also thought of the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving our nation during war. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later, their Buddy Poppy Program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

I receive a new red poppy each Memorial Day weekend from a veteran who stands outside our neighborhood WalMart store. I shake his hand and thank him for his service to our country. I thank God for bringing my father and brother and so many Americans home from wars. Then I hang the poppy from my rear-view mirror, and am reminded daily of the highest sacrifice of our country's military men and women, given so that we might have our freedoms and I thank God for them all.

Will you display a red poppy this year? Will you fly the American flag proudly and patriotically? Will you thank God for those who have died serving in the US military? I hope and pray so.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly.

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Have a safe, happy Memorial Day, one of true remembrance and thanksgiving.

1 comment:

bsgstamps4fun: Barb Gault said...

I enjoyed reading your story on the meaning of the Red Poppies, it has been several years since I saw anyone handing them out in my area. I also have posted a Memorial Day message on my blog, we are indebted to those brave service men and women who have given their lives to insure the freedoms we have today.

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