Today is Memorial Day, which is one of the holidays which we Americans remember the price of our freedom by remembering those service men and women who have been killed in action.
Due to Memorial Day falling on the last Monday in the end of May, it also serves as the official start of summer, so sometimes the meaning of the Holiday gets overshadowed a bit by people.
The holiday, which is a Federal Holiday by the way, was started back in 1868 as Decoration Day by the Grand Army of the Republic which is an organization of veterans who had served in the Union military during the Civil War. They established the day so the nation could honor those that had died by placing flowers on their graves.
Since those honoring the Union and Confederates had separate and competing Holidays for honoring those who died serving in the Civil War, it was decided sometime in the 20th Century to merge both holidays so that all those who had died no matter what side they had served on was honored by the nation.
Here is a poem, written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who was a Canadian physician who served in Belgium during World War I, which is one of my favorites and one of the best ways to sum up what Memorial Day is all about.
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 amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lieutenant Colonel McCrae served during the Second Battle of Ypres and was said to have been inspired to write the following poem titled “In Flanders Fields” after the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who was killed during the Second Battle of Ypres. Lieutenant Colonel McCrae died near the end of World War I, not due to a bullet or artillery shell in battle, but because of pneumonia while he was in command of No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) at Boulogne.
Even though I’m not Canadian, I’d like to thank Lieutenant Colonel McCrae and Lieutenant Helmer for their service to their country. I’d also like to extend my thanks to those servicemen and women of the United States Army, United States Marines, United States Navy, and the United States Air Force who have died in action. And for those of you who may read this or read my blog, and have a family member of friend who have died in action, know that I will always honor them.
I’d also like to post a letter from President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston, Massachusetts. It is a consoling letter by President Lincoln after hearing from the War Department how Mrs. Bixby’s five sons have been killed fighting for the Union during the Civil War. It turned out later that only two of Mrs. Bixby’s five sons were actually killed during battle. It is still unkown wny the War Department had incorrectly said that all five sons had been killed. The following is the text of the letter as it appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript on November 25, 1864, which was the same day the letter was delivered to Mrs. Bixby by the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, William Schouler
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
So everyone who is Barbecueing over this holiday weekend, take a moment to honor those who have died defending our country and protecting our freedom so that you have the right to Barbecue. Also remember that for freedom there is a price, maybe it’s not paid by you or a family member, but there is a price paid by someone’s family member. So honor, respect, and never forget.