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calendar   Monday - May 31, 2010

Memorial Day…some history

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve learned much about Memorial Day this year. In my defense I’ll claim we have too many holidays for too few good reasons. Memorial Day is not one of those holidays. There is a good reason for it.

Memorial Day started out as Decoration Day.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

A caller to the Rush Limbaugh show last week got me interested in this. The caller was an old veteran who was promoting Memorial Day poppies. He said that 50 years ago everybody would have a poppy and now…? Rush seemed to know what the caller was talking about but didn’t explain it. Poppies? I had to look up Memorial Day and poppies.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

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 conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

Artificial poppies to wear on Memorial Day are still being made by disabled veterans. That’s what the caller was promoting. I unfortunately don’t remember if it was the American Legion or the VFW. Regardless, get a red poppy to wear today.

Sorry, should read my own post, eh? It was the VFW. I was trying to remember what the caller said.

image

Saturday at work our supervisor got on the intercom to ‘thank all veterans this Memorial Day weekend…’

Faux pas? Ignorance? Who knows? I quietly went to him and reminded him that Memorial Day honors those who died in service to their country. It does NOT honor veterans. Veteran’s Day is observed for those like myself. And I don’t even count myself as a veteran: I never saw combat. To me a veteran has been in combat. I did serve six years in the Navy and was honorably discharged. I served, but I’m not a veteran.

My supervisor was man enough to get back on the intercom and correct himself. He added that we should all pray for those who’ve lost husbands, fathers, sons, daughters, during the current war.

image

And finally, I just have to include a link to Mark Steyn’s website today. The article is not written by Mr. Steyn but is an excerpt from one of his books. It’s an article about the creation of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. (Note: not the Battle Hymn of the Democracy)

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Christopher   United States  on 05/31/2010 at 12:14 PM   
Filed Under: • EditorialsHistoryHolidaysPatriotism •  
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