Memorial Day

Posted on May 28, 2010


I am writing this  in time for Memorial Day Weekend 2010 but it applies to every Memorial Day.

Memorial Day started out being called “Decoration Day”. It was first observed by Southern women decorating the graves of Confederate Soldiers that died during the Civil War. In 1868 by General Order No. 11, General John Logan declared May 30th as Memorial Day.  The first Northern state to recognize Memorial Day was New York in 1873. Memorial Day was recognized by all Northern states by 1898.

A poem written by Moina Michael goes:

We cherish too, the Poppy Red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to sign to the skies

That blood of heroes never die

Moina was also the person who came up with the idea to wear a Red Poppy on Memorial Day to honor those “who gave all” while serving their country. She was the first person to wear the Red Poppy and she sold them to her friends and co-workers donating all the money she received to benefit servicemen.

Although the “Battle of the Bulge” was fought mainly in Bastogne, Belgium a major part of the war was fought in the tiny country of Luxembourg. I recently went to Luxembourg and saw many Memorials to everything from General Patton ( who is buried in Hamm, Luxembourg) to individual companies and even groups of men. The country of Luxembourg and her people honors Americans as Heroes who liberated them even today. In 1945 a letter was posted in a Luxembourg newspaper. The letter goes:

For you, Little Soldiers of the States

When you left your home back in America, it was springtime. The flowers were blossoming in the little garden before your house, or in the large meadows, on the hills and in the Valleys of your country. Sortie (surely a) young girl with bright eyes, with fair hair glittering in the sunshine, was standing on the road when you passed, and with a little smile on her lips she gave you a bunch of flowers, those flowers, she gathered when she came to say you “good-bye”. And with flowers, and with that little smile of a young girl, you took along with you, the souvenir of everything which deemed to you to be the dream of your life.

But still further on your way to an uncertain future, to a life full of privations. to a life of anxiety and terror, on your way into the war of Europe, sortie (surely) other person was going along with you.

When you waved from the reeling of the ship leaving the harbor of New York or some other town, your mother was standing on the quay. And your mother to hold in her hands the last flowers she wanted to give you. She had to give you so much, and to tell you so many things that she forgot about the flowers. So the ship was sailing; you stood there, you were looking for your mother, the tears darkened your view, and through your tears the red roses in the hand of your mother were like blood-drops fallen of her heart. Did you fight in the glowing desert of Africa? Or did you pass the sunny countries of Italy? Have you been on the French shore in June of 1944? Only one thing is certain: in the cold December and January days of the Rundstedt-Offensive you have been here in Luxembourg, you have been fighting for the liberation of our country and our people.

Did you see once more the red roses in the hand of your mother before you closed your eyes for ever? Or was it the smile on the Ups (Lips) of some little girl who gave you the last satisfaction of your life?

If under the small white cross, where you are sleeping now on the cemetery of Hamm, you could have a look around the country, if you could see the dark green meadows and hear the whispering of the woods, if you could listen to the little birds, singing for you the “good morning ” and the “good night”, would it remind you of the country you left back in the States? Or would you feel that you are not at home, that you are so far, so far away from the land, where your mother is waiting for you?

All of these questions never can be answered. But one thing is certain, little soldier of the States. When on Thursday morning the sun will rise over the forest, over the meadows and over the cemetery of Hamm, some Luxembourgian mother, some mother waiting for a son fallen far away in the battle against the enemy of our freedom, some mother lonesome like your mother in the States, will come to your grave. She will bring you flowers of her garden, dark-red roses or white lilies, and maybe, near her you could see a young girl, a girl with bright eyes, and with fair hair glittering in the sunshine. And on her Ups (lips) she will bring you the little smile, which seemed you best of all your dreams when you left the States.

On this Memorial-Day, Little soldier, you will not be alone, we will bring you, along with our flowers, the gratitude of a whole nation, for which you left your young life, and who never can pay its large obligation against you.

This attitude and thankfulness is still alive in Luxembourg today. It is not just mothers who lost loved ones in WWII that decorate the graves. Young women of today still carry on the tradition. I met a very lovely young lady of 86 who continued this tradition until she no longer could. It is now carried on by young members of the family.

In contrast, we have Memorial Day Sales. Not one has anything to do with the meaning of the day. I have not seen one that offers an additional discount from anyone who brings in a DD214 that shows they served during a conflict. We have commercialized every holiday we celebrate. We fight to keep Christmas about Christ and we fight to keep Memorial day about “Our Fallen Comrades”. But it seems like each year we lose a little more.

To each of you that served during a time of conflict and to those who “Gave Their All”, I raise my glass today and say “Thank You” for your service and your sacrifice.

God Bless

Posted in: Memorial Day