Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial,  a World War I cemetery on the southeast edge of the town of Waregem, Belgium. Poppy flowers began to grow after the burial of the fallen soldiers.

15203002 - tyne cot cemetery in ypres, belgium

This weekend, America celebrates Memorial Day.

   This Monday we remember. Memorial Day or Decoration Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. Unfortunately, many of our families will remember whether remembering relatives or friends who passed years ago while serving or those who passed away recently while serving.

   This holiday will never go away as the members of the military continue to defend this great land and although a somber one, we take pride in the fact that those who perished gave their lives so that we can continue to live in the home of the brave and the free.

   Perhaps the older generation remembers selling poppies on Memorial Day to raise funds for the American Legion. It seems that this is a tradition that has become lost but maybe it is because history does not teach just why the poppies are associated with Memorial Day.

   According to US Memorial Day.org, after the Civil War, women’s and religious organizations started the formal practice of decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers and in 1865; the federal government began creating military cemeteries for the Union dead. This practice evolved into the Memorial Day we celebrate today and was merged with the wearing of poppies in the 1915 after the publication of the poem, In Flander’s Field, by Lt. Colonel John McCrae, following the second battle of Ypres and a responding poem written by Moina Michael, an American professor and humanitarian who, after reading McCrae’s poem, conceived the idea of using poppies as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I. 

   The opening line refers directly to the sight Lt. Col. McCrae witnessed as he, a physician, walked among the crosses laid out to mark the site of so many who died for their counties. While the poppies grew among the graves, they are also a resilient flower. The poppy is able to lay dormant for many years in the soil only to reappear in great numbers, covering fields which had lay bare for many years previously. This also held significance for Lt. Col. McCrae as he wrote of the heroes who appeared in great numbers to come to the aid of others against oppression and tyranny during this Great War, and who would lie dormant until their call was heard again.

   How will you choose to spend your Memorial Day?

   If the weather holds out, many will go to the beach or out on a boat and celebrate with fireworks and food. There will be concerts and music everywhere. Somehow, this celebrating just does not fit with the reason for the holiday. It seems that the younger generation confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day. Veterans Day celebrates those currently serving in the military, a happy and joyous occasion while Memorial Day remembers those who died while serving, hence a somber holiday.

   There are a few great events happening in Homestead that are open to the public and will truly honor this holiday. The American Legion located at 399 S. Krome Avenue will have a Flag Retirement Ceremony at 12:30 on Memorial Day. This will be followed by a barbecue with hamburgers, hot dogs, music and more.

   The Homestead branch of the Veterans of Foreign Wars located at 601 NE 2nd Road will host their annual graveside service at Palms Memorial Cemetery located at 27100 Old Dixie Hwy; Homestead, Florida 33032 at 8:30 am with participation by the ROTC, Boy Scouts and more. Around noon, the post will have a cookout with hotdogs and hamburgers.

   Perhaps the holiday and the lessons we need to teach our youth about Memorial Day are best described in the poem entitled “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Michael. “You who sleep in Flanders fields, sleep sweet – to rise anew! We caught the torch you threw, and holding high, we keep the faith, with all who died. 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, but lends a lustre to the red, of the flower that blooms above the dead in Flanders field. And now the Torch and Poppy Red, we wear in honor of our dead. Fear not that ye have died for naught; We’ll teach the lesson that you wrought, in Flanders field.”

   This Memorial Day, wear your red and remember.

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