This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. Though this has become a summer kick-off event, complete with barbeques, bonfires, and picnics, it has a more somber origin. Memorial Day is a day to honor all the men and women who served our country and gave their lives to protect our freedoms.
The tradition of decorating the graves of fallen war heroes with flowers originated as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. Groups of Americans began memorializing American soldiers in the same way in the late 1860s, after the Civil War, which resulted in the death of more people than any other event in US history.
In May of 1868, General John A. Logan organized a nation-wide celebration dedicated to remembering the fallen. The first Decoration Day, as it was called, took place on May 30th, chosen because it is one of few dates not marked by a Civil War battle anniversary. Thousands of participants scattered flowers over the graves of soldiers buried in Arlington Cemetery. The annual ceremonies continued to be held at the end of May.
After World War I, Decoration Day began to include all Americans killed in wars, and was finally declared, by an act of Congress, a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday of May. The day of remembrance for the brave men and women who gave their lives for our country is now known as Memorial Day, since many people congregate at local or national memorial sites. There is a national moment of remembrance every Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time.
Buddy Poppy Days
This past week you may have seen members of VFW Post #9249 distributing little red poppies. These poppies, made by disabled veterans, benefit widows and orphans of deceased veterans and are sold every year around Memorial Day. These poppies symbolize the green fields and forests that our armed forces fought in, the red blood shed, and the strength and bravery of these who protect our country.
The Buddy Poppy sale began with a French woman named Madame Guerin, who worried that the fallen of WWI were being forgotten too soon, and took inspiration from a poem written by Col. John McCrae in 1915.
“In Flanders Fields”
Below is an excerpt of the poem:
“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…
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow”
This poem serves to remind us of the solemnity of Memorial Day. Though many of us will gather with friends and family to enjoy a (hopefully) sunny day, keep in mind the history of this celebration, and send a thought or prayer for those who gave their lives, and the families they left behind. Please join me at the annual Memorial Day service at DeGlopper Memorial Park at 10 am on Monday, May 28.