My first reminder of Memorial Day is when I go to the grocery store or the post office. Uh-oh, there's somebody standing by the entrance with a donation can and a fist full of those little fake flowers.
I'm trapped! There is only one way in. Besides that, I know the person standing there.
As I approach the door, I pull my wallet out, extract a couple singles, fold them so they will fit through the slot, smile, and am awarded with my annual poppy. I poke the wire stem through a button hole in my shirt and continue my errands.
A sense of calm settles over me. I will wear my passport for the balance of the day. Now I can point to my poppy and breeze by any additional poppy-people who are looking for a donation.
This tongue-in-cheek introduction is but a lead-in to a more reflective look at what Memorial Day is all about. Memorial Day is the day that Americans honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and our country. It is a day that each and every one of us should give thanks to those who paid the price.
Since the birth of our great nation, we have been involved in many conflicts. To illustrate the enormity of their sacrifice, the following is a listing of the six wars with the greatest loss of American lives.
Some 1.2 million people died for their country during these periods.
- American Civil War — 625,000
- World War II — 405,399
- World War I — 116,516
- Vietnam War — 58,209
- Korean War — 36,516
- American Revolutionary War — 25,000
"In Flanders Fields" is a poem written by a World War I colonel, John McCrae, who expressed his grief over the "row on row" of soldiers' graves who died on Flanders' battlefields, located in western Belgium and northern France. Bright red poppies bloomed among the many rows of white crosses.
From this poem, the tradition of poppies for Memorial Day began. Two women — Anna Guerin, of France, and Moina Michael, of Georgia — initiated the sale of artificial poppies to raise money for those left destitute by the war. In 1920, the "Flower of Remembrance" was introduced in the United States with the help of the American Legion. Today, veterans' service organizations continue the tradition as a tribute to those who gave their lives for our nation's freedom. Enjoy your Memorial Day and wear your poppy with pride.
Ed Hungness and his wife became fulltime residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at email@example.com or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.