We often think of it as a three-day weekend, picnics, boating, and the start of the summer season.
But it’s something else and so much more
May 31, is day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military (not to be confused with Veterans Day on November 11 which honors all who served). We honor them for their sacrifice and give thanks for serving.
Families and friends visit cemeteries and place flags on graves and remember one fewer person in their family circle. Communities honor the military and their families with parades. As a child, I remember seeing Gold Star Mothers ride in cars in a parade.
I also remember artificial poppies distributed to commemorate fallen soldiers. The symbolism of the poppy started with a poem written by a World War I brigade surgeon, John McCrae, who was overcome by a cluster of bright red poppies growing on a ravaged battlefield. In response, he wrote a poem, “In Flanders Field,” to remember the thousands who died in the war. The poem was published later that year and was used in memorial ceremonies. Growing up, it was one of the poems I memorized in grade school. Did you?
In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place…
Across the Atlantic, Moina Michael read “In Flanders Field” in the Ladies’ Home Journal that November. Inspired by McCrae’s poem, she wrote her poem in response, which she called “We Shall Keep Faith.”
As a sign of this faith, and as a remembrance of the sacrifices during the war, Michael vowed to always wear a red poppy. You can read more about her crusade to use the poppy as an official US emblem.
What began as a simple post of honor, became a history lesson for me as I moved from one source to another with discoveries. If your curiosity is heightened you can click here.
I invite you to head over to visit A Prayer for Memorial Day by my friend and fellow writer, Joshua J. Masters.
And if you know a family whose circle is smaller and for whom this day is more than a date on a calendar, make a phone call, or send an email or text, letting them know you remember.
Fly the flag, pause from your picnic, and give thanks.