Poppies in my Garden of Love
We’ve had a plethora of tributes to Mom this month, so I’m going to plant another group in our Garden of Love, a group who has given or continues to give their all for our safety and well-being. Of course, being that today is Memorial Day, you can guess of whom I speak.
Our gallant heroes of the Armed Forces have kept our country and our lives safe and free to pursue the happiness declared in the Declaration of Independence since the 1700’s. Only when the War Between the States ended in the 1860’s did we decide to officially honor the war dead. Today, I hope that honor extends to those still living and to those still serving in our nation’s military units.
Many towns lay claim to the origination of a memorial day and the official proclamation came by General John A. Logan and was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of the Union and Confederate dead at Arlington National Cemetery. Individual states were slow to recognize it, but honoring our military is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May.
My childhood memories include parades in my small hometown and war veterans passing out poppies for everyone to pin on their lapel or blouse. I didn’t know why at the tender age of less than eight; I just thought the red flower was pretty and loved wearing one. The significance came from a poem “In Flanders Fields”, where Moina Michael, in 1915, wrote her own poem in reply:
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.
She then birthed the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day. Just before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW started nationally selling poppies.
Other times in my life, I’ve attended the Changing of the Guard and watched as they lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. It is truly a touching ceremony. Not even in church, have I heard the complete and utter silence this ritual brings.
Today and for the last few years, the Hall County Sheriff’s Department here in Gainesville, Georgia holds a ceremony honoring one of our local service people who has gone above and beyond the call of duty during their time in service. There are speakers, prayers, the singing of our National Anthem and many thanks for a job well done. Members of the Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard stage their own version of the Changing of the Guard and Watch similar to the one at Arlington. They do this formal procedure for a 24-hour period beginning at midnight on Memorial Day. Another stirring sight to watch that brings chills to one’s spine and prayers of thanks that we live in the United States of America.
I hope we all take a moment today to remember those who have given all they had to give – their lives – and those who still protect us today, that we might enjoy the freedom of picnics, parades, and partying with friends and loved ones.
Please join with me and list in your comment, friends and relatives, living or deceased who have served for us in the military. And share with us how you celebrate.
I watch our local parade, attend the Honor Service for local Veterans, watch my son participate in the Honor Guard ceremony, then swim and cook out with my family. In the evening, I will attend a concert given by the Northwinds Symphonic Band.
My personal military heroes:
John Barnett – great-great-grandfather – Confederate Army – War Between the States
Raphael Barnett -- father – US Army – World War II
Mac McConnell – cousin – US Navy – Career
Thomas Alexzulian – former student and pen pal – US Marines
Jim Hart – classmate – US Army – Vietnam
Leon Ellis – hometown acquaintance – US Army – POW Vietnam
Barry Ladd -- friend -- Gulf War
Seth Strickland -- son of a friend -- serving in Iraq
May God bless each and every military personnel and their families.