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Here in the States, this Monday, May 30th is a very important day for everyone, but in my mind, especially those of us who are interested in family history and genealogy.  Yes, of course you know it is Memorial Day.

Before I begin talking about Memorial Day, I would like to issue this call to each one of us reading this:  THIS YEAR GO TO A CEMETERY SOMEWHERE AND PAY YOUR RESPECTS TO THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR ALL.  SAY A PRAYER.  PLACE A FLAG, OR AS WE DO, RED, WHITE AND BLUE PINWHEELS.  GO TO YOUR TOWN’S PARADE.  BUY A POPPY. IF NOTHING ELSE, SAY THANK YOU TO THE NEXT VETERAN YOU SEE. 

THANKS!

I am old enough to recall when we referred to this special event as Decoration Day.  I personally have wonderful memories of marching in my hometown parade on this special day.  At times it was when I was in the marching band, some years as a Boy Scout, but always as the son of a Veteran!  I recall being very proud that I knew my Dad had been an officer in the U. S. Army and had fought for our county in World War II.  I also recall the pride I felt knowing that in the crowd I was passing were my Uncle who served in the Pacific theatre in the U. S. Navy and a Great Uncle who served in the Spanish-American War and World War I

But what I recall, very vividly, is that the parade always ended in the amphitheater where after speeches and wreath-laying, Taps would be played, often by my cousin, on a trumpet.  Then somewhere, far off, a second player would provide a Taps echo.  I still get goosebumps thinking of it! 

The actual beginnings of Decoration Day are lost in the mists of time.  Some two dozen towns lay claim to being its’ birthplace.  What we do know is that it was officially proclaimed by General John Logan and was first observed after this on May 30, 1868.  Commonly believed to have been started by women of the South to commemorate the graves of their dead, once officially proclaimed, it was seen as a ‘Northern’ effort and for years was shunned in the South.  Now it is recognized everywhere. 

Of course, Memorial Day is also affiliated with the selling of red poppies by many Veterans groups and certainly it evokes memories of that famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields“, penned by John McCrae in 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.
What I did not know at that early age, was that there was SO much more for me to learn about my family and those I should remember on Memorial Day.  Thanks to my genealogy pursuit, I now know … my Great Uncle William Morrish Phillips, who died in Flanders Fields and now rests in Houyet, Belgium in a small church graveyard there.  I know that I have cousins in Cornwall who stood hip-deep in water at Dunkirk, who fought through the jungles of Burma and China.  I know of distant cousins who gave their lives in Germany and the North Atlantic.  I know I have ancstors who fought in the American Indian Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, and many wars in Bohemia over the generations. 
So I thank my love of genealogy for giving me a much deeper understanding of this very important observance.
So as you prepare for the three-day weekend.  Remember, please, that it is far more than just an extra day off.
Thanks for reading …. and ….
Onward To Our Past,

Scott

 

  1. Heather Kuhn Roelker Reply

    Hear, hear! I get so angry about the fact that the purpose of Memorial Day and Veterans Day is so obscured by opportunities for sales.

  2. Nancy Reply

    This post, following on the heels of my reading of Unbroken is very touching. We often need reminders to focus on the reason for the holiday so we don't let it become just another day off. Thanks.

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