Where Poppies Blow Memorial Day

The auditorium was filled with family, friends, and co-workers who had
assembled to honor Colonel Stephen DiFonzo’s retirement. Several of us from our
church had the privilege of attending. We passed through the guard post of Scott Air
Force Base, entered the well-manicured grounds, and found our way to the designated
building. Hosted by a prominent General, the ceremony was both honoring of our friend
and stirring of our patriotism. Every stage of the event spoke of protocol, decorum, and
distinction so representative of the United States Armed Forces.
At the close of the service, the Colonel stood to attention, raised his right hand to
his forehead to offer an official salute, and announced the words, “I stand relieved.” His
watch had ended. The time had arrived for another to take this retiree’s place as sentry
and live the mantra so aptly described by Lincoln as giving “the last full measure of
“Patriotism,” according to Thomas Jefferson, “is not a short frenzied burst of
emotion, but the long and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Men and women from
Jefferson’s day unto this present time and from every branch of the Armed Services have
lived and died demonstrating patriotism. As Americans, we set aside one day each year,
Memorial Day, to commemorate and honor those who died before they could “stand
relieved” as they defended our freedom and democracy.
Until about 40 years ago, May 30th was set aside to observe Memorial Day.
Artificial red poppies were worn by veterans and citizens alike as a testimonial to those
who had perished in service to our nation. The pageant of poppies referenced a World
War I era poem entitled In Flanders Fields, which described row upon row of poppies
planted upon the graves of fallen soldiers who were buried in Flanders Field. The text of
the poem written by McCrae is as follows:

“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.”

The torch of patriotism passes from the dead to the living, from the retiree to the
man on active duty, from the father to the son. To accept the salute from the one
standing down without securing the next watch would be imprudence and folly. Our
nation’s history has been that of preparedness. This Memorial Day we pay tribute to our
military by memorializing the fallen and praying for those on active duty. Daniel
Webster said, “God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard
and defend it."
God Bless these United States of America!

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