Be mindful of the sacrifices, celebrate the privileges

Published 1:45 pm Saturday, May 27, 2023

By Bonnie Brown


Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer. You may now wear your white shoes and clothing. White reflects heat. Back in the day, there wasn’t much air conditioning. And we were more modest and didn’t go out in shorts and tank tops, so folks broke out the white attire to stay cooler.    

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But Memorial Day symbolizes so much more by honoring those men and women who died while in military service to their country.  

Memorial Day became a national holiday in 1971 by an act of Congress, but its history goes back to early rural America when people would observe the tradition of cleaning and decorating graves; thus, the name of “Decoration Day” applied. 

It was often celebrated with family reunions and gatherings.  We would traipse to the cemetery to refresh the flowers placed on the graves of the soldiers.  I also remember the red poppy lapel ornament. 

The poppy came to symbolize the remembrance of the war dead when Dr. John McCrae, a Canadian physician, observed that the common red field poppy was one of the first plants to reappear in the war-torn battlefields of Europe. Its seeds had been scattered in the wind, were dormant, and germinated only because the ground was disturbed by the brutal battles. 

Dr. McCrae enlisted when World War I broke out in 1914. He was appointed as a medical officer and in April 1915 was stationed near Belgium in the area called Flanders.  

On May 2, 1915, McCrae’s friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in action and buried in a makeshift grave. Dr. McCrae observed the emergence of the poppies and penned the poem “In Flanders Fields” the next day. It was first published in a magazine in England and quickly came to symbolize the sacrifices of those killed in the war.  

Our remembrances of Memorial Days include my graduation from high school on May 25, 1969, the weekend of Memorial Day observance.  My husband and I moved into our new home on May 25, 1978.  Our older son Dennis and wife Lillie were married on May 25, 1996, on Memorial Day, the same day younger son Jeff graduated from high school.  

Graduation in the morning and wedding in the evening.  I’m sure you all have marked Memorial Day weekends in similar fashion through the years.  

When I was younger, I didn’t give much thought to Memorial Day and why it was celebrated. But as I grew older and thought about my classmates going off to Vietnam, then my son in Desert Storm, and many other friends and acquaintances whose children have been in harm’s way as battles raged on, I certainly acknowledge the loss of life and mourn these brave souls who paid the ultimate price.  

In World War II my father was listed as missing in action and presumed dead. Thankfully, that was not the case and he returned home, but I can only imagine what his mother and family felt when they received this news, and how relieved they were when they found out he was still alive!  

So, pause for a moment this Memorial Day weekend as you go about your activities. Let us be mindful of the women and men who have died in wars for our country and pay homage to their legacy of bravery and sacrifice. We owe them and their families so much.  

Let us be mindful of their sacrifices and celebrate all the privileges we enjoy thanks to our military men and women.   

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