Blog Post — Memorial Day 2021
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
Some Memorial Day quotes to remind us of the reason this day of remembrance is set aside:
“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt
“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”- General Douglas MacArthur
“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”- General Norman Schwarzkopf
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”- General George S. Patton
“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”- G.K. Chesterson
“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” – Adlai Stevenson
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”- Nathan Hale
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”- Mark Twain
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We did not pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”- President Ronald Reagan
A common sight during Memorial Day is the red poppy. Here’s a little history* as to why it became a symbol of remembrance and a way of honoring those who served and lost their lives in war:
The fierce artillery battles and trench warfare on the Western Front of WWI, in the Flanders region of Belgium, decimated the landscape. In 1915, the second year of the war, soldiers began taking note of the red flowers that sprang up in the killing fields all around them. They must have seemed like a miracle.
Common poppies, Papaver rhoeas, need light to germinate, and can lay dormant for 80 years or more until the soil is disturbed. Lime from destroyed buildings and nitrogen from bombs fertilized them, and they began to bloom in abundance.
In the spring of 1915, Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving as a medical officer for the 1st Canadian Field Artillery, sat overlooking a mass grave site. He took out pen and paper and wrote what would become one of the most enduring poems of World War I, “In Flanders Fields.”
“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 above the guns below …”
McCrae’s poem was first published in Punch Magazine and widely reprinted.
A YMCA war volunteer, Moina Michael, had seen the poem before. But in November of 1918, two days before the Armistice was declared, she ran across it again. It was a pivotal moment in the history of the red poppy. In her autobiography, The Miracle Flower, she described the moment as a “full spiritual experience,” in which she “vowed always to wear a red poppy … as a sign of remembrance.”
Moina Michael’s idea quickly gained support from the YMCA, the American Legion and its Auxiliary, and the Veterans Of Foreign Wars. The Legion adopted the poppy as its flower in 1920, and in 1924 created a national program to distribute red poppies annually. In 2017, Congress formally declared the Friday before Memorial Day as “National Poppy Day”.
American Legion poppies are named in honor of this century-long movement to keep alive the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
*Source Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
During this Memorial Day weekend, let’s especially take President Reagan’s quote, copied above, to heart as we combat the efforts to remake America into something our Founding Fathers never intended. We must continue the fight to preserve American freedom, the Constitution and our founding principles which were based upon Biblical principles — something which the history revisionists are trying to erase.
We need to also put time aside this weekend to pray for America.