Memorial Day reminds me of my Dad. He did not die in service to his country but he was definitely proud of his time as a Marine. I remember driving around our town in anticipation of a small parade and the chance to “buy”a little red poppy. I would later learn that this was a donation to War Veterans. What was remarkable about the little red poppy donations each year is that we didn’t generally give to people collecting money on street corners. As an accountant my Dad preferred to do due diligence on the charities to whom he generously gave. He wanted to be sure the money he gave did the most good and would request annual reports and other financial documents before sending any check.
When it came to the poppies, we could buy several. My mom would tie her poppy on her pocketbook in a way so the people asking for donations would see it and not ask her again but Dad would let me get a new one anytime we saw them. At the time I didn’t quite get that it was a donation, or that my father was behaving differently for this charity. I just liked the red paper flowers and enjoyed collecting as many as I could.
Did you know,Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day because of the ornaments placed on soldiers graves as a way to honor and remember their sacrifice. has a disputed origin? Many different people and small towns instituted Memorials for their dead Civil War Soldiers and claim the “first” memorial day, but the holiday rose to national prominence following World War I when the holiday was changed to honor “all Americans who died in any war.”
That Red Poppy began it’s story in 1915, when Moina Michael, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” wrote her own poem in response.
We Shall Keep the Faith
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.
In Flanders Fields we fought
She vowed to wear a poppy everyday in remembrance of those who served in war. I haven’t seen anyone “selling poppies” so far this weekend but you can bet that if I do, I will pick up a few dozen in remembrance of my Dad and to teach my daughter about the customs of Memorial Day including the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution that was passed in December of 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. Americans observe a moment of silence in honor and respect of the veterans. The poppies may be gone but I am grateful and happy to take that moment to say a word of thanks and pass on a wonderful tradition.