Don't Forget To Remember

In Flanders Fields

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.

~ By John McCrae, 1915 ~

Waregem, Belgium  WW1 - 368 Americans buried there.

Memorial Day was first observed after the Civil War but at that time it was known as “Decoration Day”.  There was understandably a great need across our land for families to honor the soldiers who had died in the war.  There were groups of people both in the North and the South who were decorating graves and honoring their loved ones who had died in battle.

In the North, there was a druggist named Henry C. Welles, who lived in Waterloo, N.Y.  His idea to do something to honor those who had died was noted by others in his town and they formed a plan to devote a special day for that purpose, so on May 5, 1866, the people in the village of Waterloo, made arrangements of spring flowers into wreaths, crosses, and bouquets.  When they had done this, they placed one of these arrangements on each veteran's grave.  The veterans of the village also led a processional to the cemeteries and flags were flown at half-mast all over the town in honor of those who had died in the war.  This observance in Waterloo, N.Y., continued on thereafter as a yearly observance.

In the South there was a group of women who were probably one of the earliest groups who decorated the graves of their fallen husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers.  There was a hymn written about this in 1867, by Nella L. Sweet.  The dedication reads: “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” and the hymn reads:

"Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping
Words by G.W.R.
Music by Mrs. L. Nella Sweet

Kneel where our loves are sleeping, Dear ones days gone by,
Here we bow in holy reverence, Our bosoms heave the heartfelt sigh.
They fell like brave men, true as steel, And pour'd their blood like rain,
We feel we owe them all we have, And can but weep and kneel again.

Kneel where our loves are sleeping, They lost but still were good and true,
Our fathers, brothers fell still fighting, We weep, 'tis all that we can do.

Here we find our noble dead, Their spirits soar'd to him above,
Rest they now about his throne, For God is mercy, God is love.
Then let us pray that we may live, As pure and good as they have been,
That dying we may ask of him, To open the gate and let us in.

At that time, John A. Logan, was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was a veterans’ organization.  He was so moved by the southern ladies’ practice of decorating the graves of those who had fallen in the war that he wrote an order for the Union Army that Decoration Day be observed nationwide.  It was observed for the first time on May 30, 1868.  That date was chosen because it was not the anniversary date of any battle.  A portion of the order reads:

General Order No. 11
Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic Washington, D.C.,
May 5, 1868

Decoration Day

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… In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit…Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; 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 as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

May 30, 1868, was the first official Northern observance and springtime flowers were placed upon the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers that were buried in the new National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.  However, at that time, the South refused to accept the order and instead honored their war dead on different days.  It wasn't until after World War I that this began to change because Memorial Day was set aside for honoring those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in all American wars and not just the Civil War.

Since Waterloo, N.Y., was a place that was well known for its longstanding observance of Decoration Day, some of the leaders of that city formed a committee to gain national recognition.  In 1966, the United States did recognize Waterloo, N.Y., as the birthplace of Memorial Day and was declared so by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The term, "Memorial Day", was first used in 1882, but did not become commonly used until after World War II.  It was declared the official name by federal law in 1967.   Later, in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be held on the last Monday of May every year instead of the original date of May 30.  There are some who believe that changing Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday of May has caused the day to lose much of it’s significance.

Over the years, many people began to use Memorial Day as a day to remember all loved ones who have died.  While that is commendable, it is of utmost importance that we continue to bear in mind the original reason for Memorial Day and not forget those who gave their “last full measure of devotion”.

In 1997, Congress established The National Moment of Remembrance.  This is a time when Americans are asked to pause at 3:00 P.M. on Memorial Day, for one full minute to remember and honor those who died for our freedom.  This is something that everyone can do no matter where they happen to be.  Some organizations stop whatever they are doing at this time and place their hand over their heart as Taps is played.

It is important to remember that Memorial Day was not declared a holiday so that we can have a long weekend off from work, go to the lake, or take a vacation.  It was set aside as a day to honor those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom.

Memorial day this year will be observed on Monday May 28th.  Take the time to go to a Memorial Day service, fly the American flag, teach your children and grandchildren the true meaning of Memorial Day, and don't forget to remember.

War drew us from our homeland
In the sunlit springtime of our youth
Those who did not come back alive remain
In perpetual springtime -- forever young
And a part of them is with us always
(Author unknown)

~ Pamela Perry Blaine ~
© May 6, 2007

About Pamela:  She enjoys writing, music, and country living.  She writes"Pam's Corner" for the local newspaper and many of her writings have been published on the internet as well as in several books.

Pam says, "I have loved music and writing ever since I can remember. I play piano at church and I'm an avid reader. One of my goals is to be able to write for my children and grandchildren so special memories will not be forgotten."  She has a CD entitled "I'll Walk You Home".  If you would like one, they are available by freewill donation.  More information as well as a clip from the CD is on her website at

[ By: Pamela Perry Blaine, Copyright © 2005 ( -- {used with permission} ]


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