Veterans Day and Red Poppies

My wife, Mary Ann Gallaher Burke, is the daughter of a veteran and a Daughter of the American Revolution as well. She can trace her lineage that far back. She has always had a soft spot in her heart for veterans, especially old ones. She recently dressed the part of a Doo-Wop girl for a veteran’s dance, she loves making their day! Well, unbeknownst to me, she took up my challenge to write a column one day, and this is it! She explains poppies, Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I hope you enjoy it.

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Why poppies? But, not for Veteran’s Day, only for Memorial Day.

Have you ever read the poem “In Flanders Fields”? It was written during the First World War by a Canadian military physician, Colonel John McCrae. Poppies have long been associated with rapid growth; in his poem he mentions the blood covered battlefields and of the poppies that bloomed there and how very fast they grew to cover these bloodied fields.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

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.

Usually, or at least I do, we associate poppies with remembrance of those who have died for our freedom. The poppies were first adopted by the American Legion to remember the American soldiers killed in WWI (1914-1918). In many European countries it is as a reminder of the service members killed in all conflicts.

red poppiesMany of our fellow Americans can be seen confused about the different appreciation days for our current, retired and deceased Soldiers’ Day. Soldiers’ Day, that is another article altogether, yes our men and women who served and fought for our great country were once referred to as mere soldiers. Back on topic.  Is it all the same day? Do we recognize all soldiers on all military days? No. There is a difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. First, Veterans Day is always held on November 11th, the anniversary of the end of WWI. While Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May. Some say it is the unofficial first day of summer. I say it is when the ground thaws and the earth can breathe again.

Veterans Day has come to mean a celebration of those brave men and women who served in some capacity in our nations armed forces, while Memorial Day is just that, a memorial to those who died. It’s okay to honor a currently serving serviceman or servicewoman on Veterans Day, but the word “veteran” in reference to the military is past-tense. Which brings me to…

Military Appreciation Day, now this is all together a different event, it is any event intended to express appreciation for men and women currently in and out of the military. Military Appreciation Day, aka MAD is a 501(c)3 organization that coordinate the events for MAD, that are then carried out by volunteers. There are no salaries involved in this organization. They are working toward a day of celebration of those who are currently serving in our military forces.

For now, we tend to combine the two groups, veterans and currently serving military, into Veterans Day. Maybe one day we will recognize both groups on their own special day.

Today’s column was by Mary Ann Gallaher Burke.

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