It is Memorial Day week-end. The town is very quiet as people use this as the first three day break of the summer. School is out here. Typical Memorial Day activities are mowing your lawn, planting flowers, and visiting the graves where loved ones lie. It is also a military remembrance day and red poppies abound. Mom often talked about Memorial Day or she called it Remembrance Day which was a hold-over from World War I. The children in her rural community would go out and pick wild flowers to decorate the graves in the country cemetaries. The red poppies became a part of the Memorial Day observance coming out of the poem by Canadian veteran John McCrae:
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.
From the horrible carnage of that war, the poppies, which grew in open fields in Europe, were a reminder of life amidst death. The veterans’ groups here in town have programs at our veterans’ home and pass out the poppies.
Interesting that both Memorial Day observances and also Veterans’ Day in November are tied in to World War I. The November date was called Armistice’s Day and we celebrate it on the day peace came to Europe in 1918. The 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th hour. World War I is being remembered these days because it is 100 years since the American “doughboys” marched off to Europe and entered the battlefield of a war that was killing the best of Europe’s youth. To read about the trench warfare and the slaughter on ‘no man’s land’ is take a step back into the last of the wars of the 19th century and see the first of the wars of the 20th century.
America had been wrapped in isolationism and wanted nothing to do with Europe’s wars. With the sinking of the ship Lusitania by German U-boats a cause was established to push Congress in to approving the war. Anti-German feeling were whipped up and many German-Americans were persecuted like the Japanese-Americans in the next war and Arab-Americans today. It was not a good time.
But it is important to remember. To remember is to not forget. We are what we were when, someone has said. It is the strength and courage to admit the mistakes which are the lessons that shape us today.
The soldier and the lady who waited for him to come home. August 15, 1945.
Notice the poppy in the buttonhole --2009