Memorial Day " Remembering our fallen heroes
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, but it is likely it had many separate beginnings, with a number of towns and organized groups decorating graves of the deceased from the Civil War.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The GAR was a fraternal organization comprised of veterans of the Union Army who had served in the Civil War, and became a political power obtaining benefits for veterans and their families.
After World War I the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. Memorial Day is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May since Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971 to ensure three day weekends for Federal holidays.
Many readers may be familiar with the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” that we remember especially around Memorial Day when we encounter VFW veterans distributing their red “Buddy Poppies” in public locations to raise money in support of veterans and their dependents’ welfare. The poem was written in 1915 by a Canadian Army surgeon, Col. John McCrae after witnessing the death of his friend during World War I. (Verse 1 follows.)
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.
Moina Michael replied with her own poem in 1915:
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.
Moina then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war, and in 1922 the VFW became the veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies.
On this 65th Anniversary of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, during World War II, we should especially remember the many Americans who were lost and remain forever on foreign soil. The D-Day assault was very costly in American lives especially on Omaha Beach.
Taking Omaha beach was to be the responsibility of the United States Army troops, with sea transport provided by the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy. Landings at this location were necessary in order to link up with the British landings to the east at Gold Beach and the American landing to the west at Utah Beach.
Another poem now tells a World War II story on a memorial plaque at Omaha Beach titled, “Remember Omaha,”
They climbed aboard with anxious heart
The madly sea-tossed landing-craft,
The sea-fog on that sad morn
All but shrouded the pale dawn,
As if heav’n itself dared not see
The hounds of hell that day set free.
They disembarked under hail of shot,
Spewing up all ” one knew not what
Facing those cliffs, with gunfire ablaze
Waves bore broken bodies along
The length of that encrimsoned strand,
Where Death was given so free a hand.
They were no heroes
Though all were heroic
In that eventful day,
When mankind put all at stake.
It’s an understatement to say
That our liberty was dearly bought.
At the time of that first onslaught.
The foam is red.
All is now still, save for the breeze
That carries back, across the seas
The souls of America’s sons,
Whilst the sun, now and then warms
Those 20-year-olds who sleep today
Facing the sea in Normandy.
Van and I have become more aware of the tremendous price paid by our American troops on those fateful days in Normandy in 1944, since our Granddaughter Sarah Hayes was a Texas A & M college exchange student in the city of Caen near the Normandy Beach. Recently, her parents, our son and daughter-in-law, Steven and Beverly Hayes visited the area and shared their pictures of the white crosses marking the graves of 9,387 of our American war dead at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
An additional 1,597 names of fallen, whose remains were never found are inscribed on the walls of the semi-circular Walls of the Missing. (Rosettes mark names of those that have since been recovered and identified.)
We would like to share some of their pictures with the Fence Post readers as a solemn reminder of the many Americans who died in defense of our country. We hope this will help us all to understand the true meaning of why we commemorate each Memorial Day.
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