A TIME TO REFLECT AND REMEMBER
Memorial Day is special to me and I hope to most Americans. It’s the day we set aside to remember those who left their homes, lives and families to defend our nation and never returned. We set aside this day to remember them, pray for their souls and say thank you.
We remember that they never had the chance to come home and live their lives. They sacrificed it all for their fellow citizens. Thus, they were never able to pursue their personal dreams, marry, have families of their own, or grow old enjoying the freedom they fought for.
You can visit their gravesite in countries around the world from the beaches of Normandy France, to Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Panama, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, and Tunisia.
If you do visit, the moment will be forever scarred into your memory. You will stare in awe at their ages and the bravery they showed as you scan the grounds around. You will wish every American who enjoys the fruits of their service could understand the price they paid.
Sometime this weekend, with Covid restrictions lifted in many places, you may come across a veteran handing out or wearing a Poppy. Do you know the story of the Poppy and why they are a symbol?
Red poppies represent respect and solemnity for fallen soldiers. The poppy is the enduring symbol of World War I. The symbolism of the poppy is captured in a poem you have heard about entitled: In Flanders Field.
It was written by a World War I brigade surgeon who was struck by the sight of the red flowers growing on a ravaged battlefield where the fallen were laid.
As red poppies grew in large quantities on the battlefield, their stark red color became associated with the blood of fallen soldiers. In this way, they represent the lives of those who died in battle, and a symbol of remembrance and commemoration.
Flanders Field is the largest military cemetery of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the world. There are 12,000 buried there. White crosses are visible in row after row.
Here’s the poem:
In Flanders Fields
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.
Somewhat less known is that after reading this an American woman (Moina Michael) came across the poem and was so moved she wrote this now famous reply. It’s entitled. We Shall Keep The Promise.
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
This weekend we remember and honor all those who took up those arms and never had the tomorrows they gave to us all. Pass that message on to your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and all you can. They need to know they stand on the shoulders of these heroes and that’s what we celebrate today.