Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Musings

We cherish too, the poppy red,
That grows on field where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies
that blood of heroes never dies.
Monica Michael -1915

I literally grew up on Main Street, in the heart of the Midwest, and Memorial Day celebrations there were always marked by a community parade right past my front door. Main Street itself was only two blocks long, but the parade was a little longer than that, winding by the community park with its war memorial and the rusted metal sign of Uncle Sam pointing solemnly-- "I WANT YOU for the U.S. ARMY".

No self-respecting person would be caught dead appearing at the parade without first buying a Buddy Poppy, bright red crepe paper flowers with wrapped wire stems. They were fairly fragile things, so if you had the change, you bought a few, one for a boutonnière and another to intertwine in your bike spokes and maybe a couple to give away. After the parade, we would ride to the family cemetery and plant geraniums on the graves of "Momma", the grandmother who died before I was born, and a few other kin. The graves of veterans would have already been decorated with small flags.

Monica Michael was inspired to write her poem after reading John McCrae's "In Flander's Field." She also popularized the idea of wearing Flanders Field poppies to honor the war dead, a tradition that later became known as the Buddy Poppy. The Memorial Day parade is still a tradition in many communities and Buddy Poppies are still sold, although it's been years since I've seen one.

If you weren't able to attend a Memorial Day commemoration in your area, take a moment to think about our veterans, to thank them for their service and honor their sacrifice. Texas Monthly keeps an updated list of solidiers lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, "Fallen Heroes" (subscription required). And the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has a multi-media tribute, by columnist J. R. Labbe and photographer Rodger Mallison from the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

And if in your wanderings you should be lucky enough to come across a Buddy Poppy, buy one for me.

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