Memorial Day of Remembrance and Gratitude

«In Flanders' Fields» - published & illustrated in 1918photo © 2008 Karl-Ludwig Poggemann | more info (via: Wylio)

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.

3 thoughts on “Memorial Day of Remembrance and Gratitude

  1. Richard Montague says:

    Kathy,

    A very good, touching piece. I remember the poppies well and found myself wondering today where I might find one. When I was growing up there were always poppies around our house this time of year. When I was little, our Little League teams got to put on our uniforms and March in the Memorial Day parade. It ended in a park with the obligatory (typically boring) speeches and readings of the Gettysburg Address and In Flanders Field. And when that ended and everyone else melted away to their homes and backyard grills, my Dad would say to me, “Rich, come with me.” And we boarded a school bus with his fellow Legionaires. My Dad served in the United States Navy in the South Pacific in World War II. His brother, my Uncle John, served in the Army in Europe, as did my Mom’s brother. Most of the men on that bus were World War II veterans with perhaps a few Korea vets sprinkled in. All were immensely were proud of their service, but all quiet patriots. I don’t think one would have thought to suggest this day was about them, nor would they have accepted the idea. The day for them was about duty; their duty. A duty still to be discharged a quarter century after the guns fell silent. We rode the bus to the local cemetery. A marker there remembers my father’s great uncle, for whom the local Anerican Legion post was named. He served in the First World War, never to return from France. A short distance away, lies the grave of Pvt. Ronald Montague, my Dad’s brother. He was a Marine. He fought on Tarawa and in some of the most brutal Pacific Island battles. He gave his life on Iwo Jima.

    Away from the parades and the crowds and the local dignitaries, these old vets performed the most beautiful and solemn of ceremonies, the only witnesses to their honor, dignity and discharge of duty being the softly singing birds and a small boy in a baseball uniform.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh Richard! What a gift to have shared those moments with such honorable men. Thank you so much for sharing your touching remembrance!

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