Thursday, May 22, 2008

MILITARY AND CIVILIAN VOICES IN MEMORIAL DAY'S HISTORY
From decorating graves to selling and wearing poppies, here's a bit of the holiday's background

CIVIL WAR & WORLD WAR I. The earliest official declaration for "Decoration Day" comes from the post-Civil War era by the hand of General John A. Logan. After World War I, a civilian, Moina Michael, picked up the Memorial Day banner and inspired a movement to sell and distribute red poppies as a tribute to heroes fallen in battle.

PROCLAMATION FOR DECORATION DAY. Here is a portion of General Logan's May 5, 1868 proclamation:

"The 30th day 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 church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."

"We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose
among other things, 'of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.' What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of
rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to
the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."


"Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."


SELLING POPPIES TO HONOR WAR DEAD. And here is a bit of the story of Moina Michael:

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

Oh! 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 Fields.
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 ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.


Ms. Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy"Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on ii.

PURE-HEARTED ROOTS. So, it would appear that the roots of Memorial Day are relatively pure. On the one hand, comrades of fallen soldiers of the Union Army simply felt that decorating their graves was a fitting way to preserve their memory and honor. On the other hand, a civilian effort to honor the war dead took the form of selling and wearing poppies, the proceeds going to benefit the widows and children of fallen soldiers or to veterans disabled in wars. So, is that where we are with Memorial Day today?

Source for this post

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.