By Ryan Armagost
This Memorial Day is a challenging one, as we have to be creative in how we are able to honor the heroes that sacrificed their lives for our freedom. It is always necessary to remind everyone that Memorial Day is to remember those that have fallen, not to thank those that have served our country. We may all have divisive beliefs on politics, religion and otherwise ideological beliefs. We can all unite when it comes time to honor those that have died while protecting the American way of life.
Following the Civil War, this day was called “Decoration Day.” This was a time when people could decorate the more than 20,000 graves of fallen Union and Confederate Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetary. By the late 19th century, many American communities began to call this day, “Memorial Day.” Following WWI, this day became even more prevalent for honoring the fallen from the most devastating losses of American history. Congress officially declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971, to be celebrated on the last Monday of every May. It has been carried by American Legion and VFW to ensure that this remembrance is always kept a priority.
Many people are curious about the significance of the poppy flower worn by people on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. This tradition was technically started by a Lieutenant Colonel (LCol) John McCrae. LCol McCrae was a Canadian officer and physician, serving as a battlefield surgeon in WWI. He wrote a poem, called “In Flanders Fields” after his close friend was killed in battle May 2, 1915. Many casualties were given battlefield graves with wooden crosses as the grave markers. LCol McCrae noted that red poppies had quickly blossomed between the wooden crosses, and how it signified the blood that was shed by those that we lost. I’d like to share his poem with readers.
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.
I strongly encourage everyone to use creativity and respect to honor those that have fallen this Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance and there are so many ways to honor our fallen, despite our current situation. This is a tradition that needs to be carried by each generation and is so important to include our youth. Thank you to all of the heroes that gave their lives in the battles of our great country. Thank you to all of the families they’ve left behind to carry their legacy. Have a safe and great Memorial Day.
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