Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

From Flickr: The Commons.

A Coast Guardsman stands in silent reverence beside the resting place of a comrade., 1944

Memorial Day is such an important holiday. Today our family spent the morning placing flags on graves at the Riverside National Cemetery. At a time when many people don't know the meaning of Memorial Day, it was nice to see so many boys and young men remembering those who fought for our freedom.

Memorial Day, also known as and originally referred to as Decoration Day, dates back to the time right after the Civil War. General John Logan, of the Grand Army of the Republic, was the first to proclaim a Memorial Day in 1868, and it was first celebrated on 30 May 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery. Initially, the South refused to celebrate the holiday and, instead, honored their dead on a different day. Eventually, after World War I, the holiday became a time to honor all war dead, not just those who had died during the Civil War.

One tradition that came out of Memorial Day was the wearing of red poppies. The wearing of poppies derived from a poem written by Lt. Col. John McCrea of the Canadian Army. He was a military doctor who was inspired to write the poem after watching the pain and death that comes from war and, specifically the death of a young friend. 

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the Poppies blow
Between the crosses row by 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.

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