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Friday, May 28, 2010

Poppies and Memorial Day

By Wicked Patriot

Sometimes I wonder at the phrase "Happy Memorial Day" I wonder how many people remember that Memorial day has nothing to do with holidays, family vacations, BBQ's or cold beer.

Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor the Union soldiers who died during the Civil War. After WW1 is was broadened in scope to encompass all soldiers who have fallen in service of our great country.

The first Memorial Day was observed by freed slaves to honor the Union soldiers who had died to free them in a long forgotten place called the Washington Race Course on May 1st 1865. The Washington Race Course was a former Confederate prisoner of war camp in South Carolina.

After the war freed slaves exhumed Union soldiers buried in the mass grave on the site and gave them a proper burial.

Memorial Day was not a declared “holiday” until 1968. This is when the "holiday" was combined with Veterans Day and Washington's Birthday to create a convenient three-day weekend for Congress (fitting). The “holidays” were eventually separated again in 1978. Most businesses are no longer closed on Washington's Birthday or Veterans Day, but Memorial Day seems to endure. Not so much to honor the fallen, but to give the government a three-day weekend.

My father served all his adult life for a country he loved. Now he is gone, like so many others forgotten on distant shores – never again to see the country they fought and died for.

You see it is not about BBQ's and days off to me, or anyone like me. The little boys and girls that have to grow up without their moms and dads, know this as do the wives and husbands who cannot go on to grow old together. And there are so many sisters and brothers sorely missed by those that love them – they understand this too.

When I think about Memorial Day, I think of Red Poppies sold by the VFW and the poem that inspired that tradition, “In Flanders Fields,” penned by John McCrea. Do you know it? I do.

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.

Remember as you drive to your BBQ’s and to the beach, there are those unseen, beyond the veil of the final nightfall, who whisper “remember me.”


  1. In the early hours of Memorial morn, I weep silent tears for those who gave me their ultimate sacrifice. They lost their lives & saved mine.


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