What a week it’s been. Last weekend’s charity dart tournament was a huge success, although it was an exercise in stamina. We started at 8 am and didn’t finish up until after midnight. I didn’t win any of the matches, but had a blast, just the same.
Now, it’s Memorial Day. A day we remember the sacrifices that our Service Members have made for all of us throughout history. If you are a Military Veteran, a current member of our Military, a Policeman, Fireman, Ambulance-man, or anyone else who runs towards the sirens, gunfire, explosions, or screams or a family member of any of the above, then you have my eternal gratitude. Thank you for your service.
At one point in time, each of you raised your right hand and swore to give up EVERYTHING, up to and including your life, for the protection and well-being of others. Most of you probably felt, as did I, that you were protecting your friends, your family, and your loved ones. But, in reality, you’re also protecting MY friends, MY family, and MY loved ones. And for that, you deserve my eternal thanks. You deserve everyone else’s gratitude, but I can’t control that. Only my own. And you have that, from the deepest part of my heart.
Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2019 occurs on Monday, May 27.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
I disagree that it just honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The Indiana State Police have a Memorial Day Service every year, as do, I’m sure most every police organization in the country. I know the fire departs do the same thing. So, I believe that this holiday is for all the service members and we should give our thanks to all that serve and protect.
Continuing from History.com:
Early Observances of Memorial Day
The Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865, claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.
By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.
It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.
So, I’m not sure if that was meant for Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, but I like it, it brought a tear to my eye, so it’s going in here.
History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Yes…it’s much more expensive then many, many civilians realize.
Memorial Day Traditions
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.
Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem. On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because it unofficially marks the beginning of summer.
American War Cemetery in Italy
Many veterans are buried abroad, near where they died during battle. Pictured is an American cemetery in Impruneta, Italy.
And this one is at Arlington National Cemetery
The WWI Origins of the Poppy as a Remembrance Symbol
The Remembrance Day symbolism of the poppy started with a poem written by a World War I brigade surgeon who was struck by the sight of the red flowers growing on a ravaged battlefield.
- SARAH PRUITT
From 1914 to 1918, World War I took a greater human toll than any previous conflict, with some 8.5 million soldiers dead of battlefield injuries or disease. The Great War, as it was then known, also ravaged the landscape of Western Europe, where most of the fiercest fighting took place. From the devastated landscape of the battlefields, the red poppy would grow and, thanks to a famous poem, become a powerful symbol of remembrance.
Across northern France and Flanders (northern Belgium), the brutal clashes between Allied and Axis soldiers tore up fields and forests, tearing up trees and plants and wreaking havoc on the soil beneath. But in the warm early spring of 1915, bright red flowers began peeking through the battle-scarred land: Papaver rhoeas, known variously as the Flanders poppy, corn poppy, red poppy and corn rose. As Chris McNab, author of “The Book of the Poppy,” wrote in an excerpt published in the Independent, the brilliantly colored flower is actually classified as a weed, which makes sense given its tenacious nature.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who served as a brigade surgeon for an Allied artillery unit, spotted a cluster of poppies that spring, shortly after the Second Battle of Ypres. McCrae tended to the wounded and got a firsthand look at the carnage of that clash, in which the Germans unleashed lethal chlorine gas for the first time in the war. Some 87,000 Allied soldiers were killed, wounded or went missing in the battle (as well as 37,000 on the German side); a friend of McCrae’s, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was among the dead.
Struck by the sight of bright red blooms on broken ground, McCrae wrote a poem, “In Flanders Field,” in which he channeled the voice of the fallen soldiers buried under those hardy poppies. Published in Punch magazine in late 1915, the poem would be used at countless memorial ceremonies, and became one of the most famous works of art to emerge from the Great War. Its fame had spread far and wide by the time McCrae himself died, from pneumonia and meningitis, in January 1918.
Across the Atlantic, a woman named Moina Michael read “In Flanders Field” in the pages of Ladies’ Home Journal that November, just two days before the armistice. A professor at the University of Georgia at the time the war broke out, Michael had taken a leave of absence to volunteer at the New York headquarters of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), which trained and sponsored workers overseas. Inspired by McCrae’s verses, Michael wrote her own poem in response, which she called “We Shall Keep Faith.”
As a sign of this faith, and a remembrance of the sacrifices of Flanders Field, Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy; she found an initial batch of fabric blooms for herself and her colleagues at a department store. After the war ended, she returned to the university town of Athens, and came up with the idea of making and selling red silk poppies to raise money to support returning veterans.
Michael’s campaign to create a national symbol for remembrance—a poppy in the colors of the Allied nations’ flags entwined around a victory torch—didn’t get very far at first. But in mid-1920, she managed to get Georgia’s branch of the American Legion, a veteran’s group, to adopt the poppy (minus the torch) as its symbol. Soon after that, the National American Legion voted to use the poppy as the official U.S. national emblem of remembrance when its members convened in Cleveland in September 1920.
On the opposite side of the Atlantic, a Frenchwoman named Anna Guérin had championed the symbolic power of the red poppy from the beginning. Invited to the American Legion convention to speak about her idea for an “Inter-Allied Poppy Day,” Madame Guérin helped convince the Legion members to adopt the poppy as their symbol, and to join her by celebrating National Poppy Day in the United States the following May.
Back in France, Guérin organized French women, children and veterans to make and sell artificial poppies as a way to fund the restoration of war-torn France. As Heather Johnson argues on her website devoted to Madame Guérin’s work, the Frenchwoman may have been the single most significant figure in spreading the symbol of the Remembrance poppy through the British Commonwealth countries and other Allied nations.
Within a year, Guérin brought her campaign to England, where in November 1921 the newly founded (Royal) British Legion held its first-ever “Poppy Appeal,” which sold millions of the silk flowers and raised over £106,000 (a hefty sum at the time) to go towards finding employment and housing for Great War veterans. The following year, Major George Howson set up the Poppy Factory in Richmond, England, in which disabled servicemen were employed to make the fabric and paper blooms.
Other nations soon followed suit in adopting the poppy as their official symbol of remembrance. Today, nearly a century after World War I ended, millions of people in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand don the red flowers every November 11 (known as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day) to commemorate the anniversary of the 1918 armistice. According to McNab, the Poppy Factory (now located in Richmond, England and Edinburgh, Scotland) is still the center of poppy production, churning out as many as 45 million poppies made of various materials each year.
In the United States, the tradition has developed a little differently. Americans don’t typically wear poppies on November 11 (Veterans Day), which honors all living veterans. Instead, they wear the symbolic red flower on Memorial Day—the last Monday in May—to commemorate the sacrifice of so many men and women who have given their lives fighting for their country.
“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.
And that, dear friends and loved ones, seems a fitting place to end this issue. My love to you all, until we meet again.