On the last Monday of May every year, we celebrate Memorial Day. We honor the men and women who died while serving in any one of the United States military branches. These brave men and women gave everything for their country. We honor the sacrifices they made as we enjoy the many freedoms those sacrifices bought with their lives.
The tradition of Memorial Day began after the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day. Memorial Day as we know it today, did not become an official federal holiday until 1971. The day is typically observed with parades or by visiting the cemeteries and other memorials where families can gather and remember their loved ones who died in service.
In the years that followed the American Civil War, a war that claimed more lives than any conflict in American history, national cemeteries were needed to bury the many who died. By the late 1860’s many traditions began to spring up. Some of them were going to the cemeteries to clean the headstones and place flowers. Prayers or other words would be said that were appropriate for the families as they celebrated the life of their fallen soldier.
In line with that tradition, it is on this day that I share the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John McRae. From 1914 to 1918, Flanders Field was the site of a major battle that would end with over a million soldiers wounded, missing, or killed in action. These men came from over 50 countries as they fought in World War I. In the aftermath, poppies grew profusely and would become a symbol of remembrance for all time.
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.
As we remember the lives of our honored dead…may we also pray for peace.