Monday, May 25, 2009

Poppies in my Garden of Love

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.



Nicki Salcedo said...

I saw the Changing of the Guard and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery for the first time at the age of 11. It is unimaginable what real heroes do. Thanks for helping us remember, Cici.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Both my fathers, adoptive and biological, served in the South Pacific during WWII. One survived the Bataan Death March. Neither was prone to talk about their experiences.

CiCi Barnes said...

Yes, Nicki, the Changing of the Guard is truly amazing. It makes us proud and sorrowful at the same time.

I know what you mean, Debbie. My father served on Okinawa for a year and a day, and that's about all he will say about it. The experience is not something those who serve want to remember. God bless them both.


Maxine Davis said...


This was a wonderful post. I liked your personal heroes.
For me, among others, my list would include my father, Curtis Kelley-Army, and my husband, Lanny-Seabees.

I haven't seen them so much in a while, but used to always have a red poppy to wear. Brought back memories. Thank you.

Tami Brothers said...

Wow. I got chill bumps when I read this. I always remember those who fought for our freedom, but I never knew anyone personally until my senior year and the Afgan war (1990's). Then I suddenly had friends over there. Boys who left and came back men.

I now have way to many people to mention that I think of, but I do want them to know that I think about them each and every day when I watch my son splash in the pool or ride his bike down the street without a care in the world. It is because of so many sacrifices that we can do this and I truly appreciate it!

I never understood the meaning of the Poppies, so thanks a ton for that story to add to my day!

Have a great day to all of you.

Sandy Elzie said...

Good morning,

What a great blog! I learned something...I didn't know why or when the poppy became the symbol of Memorial Day.

I've watched the changing of the guard at Arlington (my mother & father are buried there) and it brings tears to my eyes every time.

I agree that we need to constantly keep all our veterans and our currently serving men & women in our thoughts and prayers.

My father served in WWII in the Phillipines

My son-in-law, Barry Kent Barker, retired Air Force (served in Desert Storm)

My son, Matthew Scott Elzie, Navy

My grandson, Stephen Michael Stelzner, Marines, currently serving in Afganistan.

God Bless them all and God Bless America.


Marilyn Baron said...

Wonderful post. I am here in Ft. Lauderdale celebrating Veterans Day with my parents.

My father served in WWII, flying bombing raids over cities and towns all over Europoe. He kept a diary of his missions which I have read and because of his experiences I like to read everything I can about World War II.

One was particularly interesting. He flew an advance raid the morning of the D-Day landing which brings that period of history alive for me.

I am grateful for all the sacrifices my father and all the other veterans made for me.

Marilyn Baron

Linsey Lanier said...

I remember those poppies as a child, too, Cici. I didn't understand the significance until I was older, either.

My father served in the Navy during WWII. My pastor fought under General Patton.

Very moving post.


CiCi Barnes said...

Maxine, Tami, Sandy, Marilyn and Linsey -- it seems we all share more than a love of writing.

World War II has affected all our lives. Tom Brokaw was so right when he wrote about the Greatest Generation. They bore so much in their young lives, firt the Great Depression, and then the Great War.

Sandy, I send special prayers up for your grandson. May God keep him safe.

Thanks you all for sharing your heroes today.


Their sacrifices are amazing.

Susan May said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I just wish more teenagers and people that move into the US from other countries understood that lives were given to have what we have. It all came with a great price.

Excellent job CiCi. You need to send the piece to the paper next year.

B.J. Anderson said...

Beautiful post. For me it's my husband Tyler who served in the Marine Corps and my father who served in the Navy.

Cinthia Hamer said...

I'm late commenting on this, but just wanted to say I loved your post. The description of the Changing of the Guard was magnificent. I've only observed it on TV, but I, too, was amazed at the total and complete silence.

My family's list of heroes is extensive:

Edward,Justin,Robert & David Hamer-my father and his brothers, all served in the Pacific in WWI as Medics. Thank God they all returned alive and as healthy as a man could having survived that.

Braulio (Army Air Corps), Philip(Army) and James(Navy) Enriquez-My mother's brothers. Served in the Pacific in WWII. James stayed on after the war ended to help with the repatriation of the Japanese who'd been displaced by the war.

William Payne-cousin's husband, served in the Navy during Vietnam

William Leitch-cousin's husband, served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.

Lawrence W. Pierce-Great-grandfather was a Union soldier during the War Between the States.

Last, but certainly not least, my husband, Alan, served from 1973 to 1978 in the Navy, was a participant in the evacuations of Phnom Penh and Saigon.

All these men are my heroes. I think about them often, not just on Memorial or Veterans Day. And every time I see red poppies blowing in the wind, even in a traffic island, I get a little emotional.

Thanks for a wonderful and thought provoking post!

Cinthia Hamer said...

Note: Always go back and look for typos!

My father and his brothers served in WWII!