Publisher's note: Please join me in welcoming our newest contributor to BCN, Kathy Manos Penn, a native of the "Big Apple", by way of the "Peach City" - Atlanta. Kathy is a former English teacher, author of The Ink Penn blog, and a communications professional in corporate America.
Most of us have plans for the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend, but I wonder how many of those plans include anything to do with the true meaning of the day. As the wife of a Viet Nam veteran, I can count on my husband to remind me to take time to "remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country," as described on the website, USMemorialDay.org . Where we live, we're always reminded when we see VFW members handing out poppies at the Kroger. Why poppies? "In Flanders Fields,"
written in 1915, inspired University of Georgia professor Moina Michael with the idea to sell silk poppies to raise money to assist disabled American veterans. The American Legion was the first organization to adopt the poppy as their official symbol of remembrance, but they shifted briefly to the daisy in 1921. The next year, the VFW became the first veterans' organization to organize a nationwide poppy distribution, and the rest is history.
Disabled or needy veterans in VA hospitals assemble the poppies and receive remuneration for their work. The VFW gives the poppies away and accepts donations then used to support our military in a variety of ways. Our local VFW uses some of these funds to provide assistance to deployed troops and their families at home through the "Adopt-A-Unit" program. At one point, they had adopted four separate Units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and sent hundreds of care packages to the Troops. They supported the families with financial assistance, food vouchers, transportation and special events -- Easter egg hunts, picnics, and Welcome Home parties. Organizing these and other activities takes commitment and dedication from VFW members.
In Flanders Field
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.
There's no limit to the ways you can choose to honor those who gave their lives in service to our country. You can proudly display poppies and American flags. You can view The National Memorial Day Concert, broadcast live from Washington, DC Sunday evening on PBS. You can likely find a local ceremony to attend. Later in the day, you can observe the "National Moment of Remembrance" at 3 p.m. by pausing for a moment of silence or listening to "Taps."
Whatever your plans for the weekend, if you find yourself at a Kroger where veterans are handing out poppies, be sure to pick one up and take a moment to remember and reflect. And, if you can also give a donation to this worthy cause, your generosity will be much appreciated.