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Friday, May 27, 2016

For Memorial Day Weekend 2016

About this observance — a time for reflection and patriotism...

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

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 poem "In Flanders Fields" set to music:

Commentary from my friend Stogie:
Red poppies are flowers whose seeds can remain dormant for years, and are activated into germination when the earth is broken or turned. When the soldiers in Belgium began burying their dead, there was a lot of freshly turned earth. In a few days the fresh graves were ablaze with the red poppies, as if God Himself had decorated the graves.

Because of this, the red poppy became a symbol of Memorial Day and for many years was worn by many to remember the war Dead. This is an old tradition we should work to revive.


  1. Blessed MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND to you and your loved ones AOW!!

  2. Oh, GAD....the poem ALWAYS ALWAYS brings tears to my eyes...and then Stogie's information really sealed that deal.
    What a beautiful thought....."If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields."

    This REALLY drives home the sacrifice and the amazing courage of dying for a cause. Thank the Lord our dead soldiers don't know what's happened to patriotism in our country. May they rest in peace.

  3. –––––––––– WHY MEMORIAL DAY?––––––––––



Do you remember the parades? The high school marching bands, the Boy Scouts, the Cub Scouts, and the Brownies all neatly dressed in their uniforms and marching along, sometimes shyly, sometimes proudly, but more often just plain doggedly?


Do you remember the excitement getting ready for The Big Event? Everyone rushing around in the early A.M., mother making sure that everyone got breakfast –– you can’t march on an empty stomach, you know. Dad hanging out the flag on the front porch or from an upper storey window, slightly embarrassed, but privately grateful when Junior points out that it’s hung upside down. There’s just time to put it right before everyone has to be at the starting grounds for the big parade.

Little sister, too young to march, gets the best view, because she’s privileged to sit on Daddy’s shoulder. Later, she’ll shriek with wild delight to to the wry amusement of all the parade goers, when she spots her big brother, the Eagle Scout, bearing the standard in front of the whole troop. He’ll turn beet red with self-consciousness when he hears her, but pretend not to notice, and secretly be pleased.


The veterans of two World Wars will march too. They are the real reason for this exciting event. The ancient ones from the First World War, some hobbling on crutches or walking stiffly with canes, wouldn’t miss the chance to march no matter how much effort it might be for them. Uniforms, which no longer fit very well, some even partially eaten by moths, have been dragged out of attics and basements once again to have their brass buttons polished in honor of the day. And there’s always an octogenarian or two who is so proud that his uniform still fits as well as it did in 1916. He will march with his still-handsome head held high, and with an energy that will put all the younger ones to shame.


Most of the dads are from the World War Two vintage. They have grown comfortably into middle age, grateful to be here in this land-of-the-free. The horrors of the war they studiously avoid discussing, or even thinking much about, except when an occasional nightmare disturbs their rest, or during those rare, quiet get-togethers with foxhole buddies who actually went through the same experience. At the VFW meetings they pretty much try to concentrate on having good times, and doing good works for the community.


If they seem a little too hearty and laugh a little too loudly, don’t let it bother you. The gave more than those of us left safely at home could possibly imagine –– much more than most of them could possibly even tell you about.





–––––––––– WHY MEMORIAL DAY? ––––––––––

And so, thy marched with pride, with gratitude, and with hope that future generations would not be called upon to make similar sacrifices, so that their families could continue to grow their gardens in peace, and march in future parades and enjoy picnicking with both gratitude and joy.


Later, after the parade, mothers, sisters and aunts would put on the most splendid outdoor feasts. Do you remember the huge bowls of luscious homemade potato salad redolent of onions, peppers, hard boiled eggs, Aunt Mary’s very special homemade mustard, and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise? Sometimes, they added bacon. Surely you must remember the hot dogs and hamburgers, or maybe some ribs and chicken all lovingly and exquisitely marinated with secret spices Dad used before cooking them over white hot charcoal? And all the things to fill it out like Aunt Vera’s carrot raisin slaw and Cousin Jane’s extra special good cucumber salad that even the kids loved to eat, and Mother’s homemade cheesebread –– to say nothing of all the cakes and pies and brownies and stuff.


One year Mother made a spectacular sheet cake that used blueberries and the brightest red strawberries strategically placed on her best white icing to represent the American Flag! The trouble was it didn’t taste near as good as it looked, so we never had it again.


As a famous song says, “These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives.”


No one talked about Uncle Bob, who died in a Japanese prison camp less than a month before the war was over, or Cousin Eddie, who walks with a painful limp, because there was no way the surgeons could get all the shrapnel out of his knee.


No one talked about these sacrifices as we put on our innocent and prideful displays, thrilled at the realization that summer vacation was now in sight, and romped and teased and loved each other, but we knew.


Somehow, we were aware that all this was not happening just for “fun.” In those long ago days we were taught to be grateful. We were made aware that everything we do has consequences, and that everything –– good and bad –– must be paid for. There were no “free rides,” and no “free lunches,” either. 

Sometimes, terrible things happen –– like Uncle Bob’s dying in that prison camp. [We found out later from two of his surviving buddies that they’d inserted slivers of bamboo under his fingernails and set them on fire –– among other things.]


But we didn’t dwell on stuff like that.


Uncle Bob had been a sweet-natured, happy-go-lucky man. He was the first to come pick you up and fetch the mercurochrome, if you fell off your bicycle, and he adored animals. He was always bringing home a little lost kitten or stray puppy much to Mother’s indulgent dismay.


Oh, we still miss Uncle Bob, even though he’s been gone for more than seventy years now, but we’ve always felt that he wanted us to be happy. That’s why he went over there and got himself tortured and killed. So we have been happy, but we’ve kept Uncle Bob alive in the love we store in our memories of him, and our gratitude for his courage and sacrifice, and for the swell guy he was whom we were so lucky ever to have known at all.


Should we do less for all those other “Uncle Bobs” who gave their lives so that we might continue to enjoy our picnics?


~ FreeThinke - The Sandpiper - Spring, 1996

    1. FT,

Somehow, we were aware that all this was not happening just for “fun.” In those long ago days we were taught to be grateful.

      Days gone by.

      Last Tuesday in my high school American Literature class, only two students out of the twenty understood the significance of Memorial Day. Only two! Even those children from military families were woefully ignorant. This is the first Memorial Day that the majority of my class didn't know the significance of Memorial Day. Our young people have lost their heritage -- and are instead all consumed with checking their digital devices, which apparently had sucked out the knowledge available in the Information Age.

      I presented the history lesson -- a lesson which they should already have known but did not. Then we read "In Flanders Fields" aloud.

  5. ___________ REMEMBER __________

    Remember me when I am gone away,
    Gone far away into the silent land;
    When you can no more hold me by the hand,
    Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

    Remember me when no more, day by day,
    You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
    Only remember me; you understand
    It will be late to counsel then or pray.

    Yet if you should forget me for a while
    And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
    For if the darkness and corruption leave
    A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

    Better by far you should forget and smile
    Than that you should remember and be sad.

    ~ Christina Rossetti (1836-1894)

    1. FT,
      I love that poem by Christina Rossetti.

      From my good friend Mustang's site upon the sudden death of his beloved wife:

      When I come to the end of the road
      And the sun has set for me
      I want no tiles in a gloom filled room;
      Why cry for a soul set free?

      Miss me a little —but not too long
      And not with your head bowed low;
      Remember the love that we once shared,
      Miss me, but let me go.

      For this is a journey that we all must take,
      And each of us must go alone,
      It’s all part of the Master’s Plan,
      It is a step on the road to home.

      When you are lonely and sick at heart,
      Go to the friends we know,
      And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds,
      Yes, miss me —but let me go.

    2. A fine poem expressing similar sentiments to Christina Rossetti's Remember.

      I was shocked and very sorry to learn of the recent tragedy in Mustang's life. I wish there were something I could do for him. He's such a good guy.

  6. I recall as a child wearing a poppy at this time. Just another tradition long gone. A wonderful reminder of the sacrifices.

  7. From the blog The Old Jarhead:

    Memorial Day

    The troubled world can offer no award
    To you who sleep beneath the chiseled stone.
    You died because we handed you the sword,
    And we are free because you sleep alone.

    The tides of history well may change the cause,
    And time may blunt the sharpness of the debt,
    For sacrifice, a nation under laws
    Is gathered here today, lest we forget.

    --Robert A. Hall

    I composed this poem while marching in the Fitchburg, MA Memorial Day Parade in 1975, then used it in my speech at the upper common.

    1. Excellent work there, AOW. Thank for sharing.

  8. A friend and I traveled to Kansas City to visit the WWI museum. It is a lovely facility. When walking into the exhibits the guest passes over a glass floor and beneath it is a field of poppies - a remembrance for the deceased of war. The exhibitions are lovely!



  9. God Bless the Military. As the VA wrongly declares 4,000+ of them dead and cancels their benefits. Will they be re-instated. Personally, I doubt it

    The establishment needs to be majorly rejected.

    1. And CNN got Bob Dole on their show, and they're really playing the interview up, where he said "THE VA IS DOING A FINE JOB, FINE JOB! I know of only TWO instances of problems near here and one was a nurse not getting promoted..FINE JOB!"
      CNN loved it...finally answered my question of "WHY DOLE" when the interview first started.

    2. I think has overemphasized to himself, his knowledge of the VA. Being in proximity to two VA hospitals, and having one of those named after you.....does not.....in my opinion, make one educated on the failings of the VA system nationwide.

      I did like the portion where he talked about his work and visits to the WWII Memorial.

    3. CI, that's exactly what I thought....plus, they may not be telling him much of any problems, considering one IS named after him, you're right!
      And yes, he's quite a guy and does good work to this day, even as old as he is.

    4. ... In April 1945, while engaged in combat ... Dole was badly wounded by German machine gun fire, being hit in his upper back and right arm. ... [W]hen fellow soldiers saw the extent of his injuries, all they thought they could do was to "give him the largest dose of morphine they dared and write an 'M' for 'morphine' on his forehead in his own blood, so that nobody else who found him would give him a second, fatal dose." Dole was transported to the United States, where his recovery was slow, interrupted by blood clots and a life-threatening infection. After large doses of penicillin [failed], Dole overcame the infection with ... streptomycin, ... still an experimental drug. He nevertheless remained despondent, "not ready to accept .. that my life [had been] changed forever."

      He was encouraged to see a Chicago orthopedist by the name of Hampar Kelikian, ... [D]uring their first meeting Kelikian told Dole that he would never be able to recover fully. [Nevertheless] the encounter changed Dole's outlook ... [Y]ears later Dole wrote that Kelikian, –– a survivor of the Armenian Genocide ––, "inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining [about] what had been lost." Dr. K, as Dole later came to affectionately call him, operated on him seven times, free of charge, and had, in Dole's words, "an impact on my life second only to my family."
      Dole recovered from his wounds at the Percy Jones Army Hospital. ... [H]e was decorated three times, receiving two Purple Hearts for his injuries, and the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor for his attempt to assist a downed radioman.

      ~ WIKI on Bob Dole

      Bob Dole was born in 1923, which makes him either 92 or 93 years old. At this point I think we may want to forget any foolishness he may display, and chalk it up to senile dementia.

      Like his colleague Senator John McCain –– another victim of war –– Bob Dole's career as a "Go-Along-to-Get-Along, " Middle-of-the-Road," "Don't Rock-the-Boat" politician has been a great disappointment to American Conservatives.

      Both men –– like Mitt Romney, who followed later –– were TERRIBLE candidates for the presidency. Even so, nothing can deprive them the credit we must give both men for the immense suffering they endured while serving the country.

      Unfortunately, having endured and survived extreme hardship does not necessarily make one a good candidate for the highest office in the land.

  10. ____________ QUESTIONS ____________

    How does it feel to be cut in half
    _____ by a sudden burst of machine gun bullets?


What does it feel like at the precise moment
    _____ when a bullet enters your eye, and pierces your brain?

    Can you imagine having your lower jaw smashed by bullets
    _____ and then see its bloody, splintered fragments
    __________ drop to the ground ?


What is it like to take a direct hit to the skull?
    _____ Would you know that you were dead?


What sensations must a person feel
    _____ as his body is being consumed by fire?

    What would be the thoughts of someone
    _____ just thrown to the ground and kicked,
    __________ whose hands have been tied behind his back,
    who then gets chained by his heels
    _____ to the rear end of a vehicle
    __________ about to drag his still-healthy, still-unbroken
    _______________ young body over stones, gravel,
    _______________ dirt and thorny stubble?


How does it feel to have the flesh ripped off your cheeks?
    _____ To have all the flesh on your hands torn off
    __________ exposing bones and tendons?

    How does it feel to have grit and gravel
    _____ embed themselves in your eyes?

    How does it feel to be torn
    _____ limb from limb by a jeering mob? 

    Exactly how does it feel to have your head
    _____ stomped to jelly by hobnailed boots?
    Or your genitalia ripped out by the roots
    _____ and stuffed into your screaming mouth?

    How does it feel to be smart enough to realize
    _____ you are suffering and dying for the sole purpose
    __________ of lining the pockets of international bankers,
    _______________ global industrialists and the suppliers
    _______________ of war materiel with gold?


Exactly how would you react to being held down
    _____ and having your teeth kicked down your throat,
    __________ your eyes gouged out,
    _______________ your ears and your nose sliced off,
    _______________ or a glass rod inserted in your urethra
    ____________________ and then broken? 

    How would you feel when you are forced to eat
    _____ ground glass or drink hydrochloric acid?


How would you feel if you were sodomized by barbarians
    _____ then buried up to your neck in sand
    __________ and systematically stoned and kicked to death?


How does it feel to be held down
    _____ and deliberately blinded by acid?


How does it feel to be maimed by “Friendly Fire?

    How does it feel to be flayed alive
    _____ and then slowly cut to ribands?

    How? How? How?


But much more important is




__________ WHY?


__________________ WHY?

    ~ FreeThinke

  11. ______ DULCE ET DECORUM EST _______
    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned out backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! –– An ecstasy of fumbling
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. ––
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
    Bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    ~ Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

    Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918) was an English poet and soldier, one of the leading poets of the First World War.

    His shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare was heavily influenced by his friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon, and stood in stark contrast both to the public perception of war at the time and to the confidently patriotic verse written by earlier war poets such as Rupert Brooke.

    Among his best-known works – most of which were published posthumously – are "Dulce et Decorum est", "Insensibility", "Anthem for Doomed Youth", "Futility" and "Strange Meeting". ...

    Owen is regarded by many as the greatest poet of the First World War.

  12. And...

    "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us."

    Alternative: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

    Alternative: "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

    Commonly misattributed to George Orwell without citation. Sometimes also misattributed to Winston Churchill without citation.

    Actual source: Quote Investigator found the earliest known appearance in a 1993 Washington Times essay by Richard Grenier: "As George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." The absence of quotation marks indicates that Grenier was using his own words to convey his interpretation of Orwell's opinion, as seen in citations below.

    In his 1945 "Notes on Nationalism", Orwell wrote that pacifists cannot accept the statement "Those who 'abjure' violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf.", despite it being "grossly obvious." "Notes on Nationalism"

    In an essay on Rudyard Kipling, Orwell cited Kipling's phrase "making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep" (Kipling, Tommy), and further noted that Kipling's "grasp of function, of who protects whom, is very sound. He sees clearly that men can be highly civilized only while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them." (1942)

    Similar phrase: "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it." – Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men)

  13. Do not stand at my grave and weep 

    I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow. 

    I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 

    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

    ~ Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004)

    1. I first saw the words to this poem on a tombstone. The sentiment is such that, when we die, we are merely changed. I had a Buddhist professor of philosophy tell me, while still a college student, that Asian mystics see the universe as a sea, that we are temporary waves on that sea, and when we crest and expire, we merely return to the sea, always at one with the force that made us.

  14. Was President Obama's Hiroshima Speech
    A fitting speech for Memorial Day?
    NOT as far as I'm concerned, I thought it was Horrible,, disgusting, and a slap in the face for every American. Just about as bad as it gets..

  15. Thanks for reprinting my comments about Flanders Fields.

    1. Good to see you, sir. You've kept yourself much too scare lately. We always enjoy hearing from you whatever you have to say.

  16. Going to Japan and apologizing to them when they bombed Pearl Harbor to begin with was a stupid move, but then again it's Obama.. If Trump would have went to Japan, Japan would have been the one who apologized.

  17. Think of all the things these people gave up for this county.

    The love they didn’t live to feel.

    The children they didn’t live to hold.

    The son they were not there to steady.

    The daughter they were not there to comfort.

    the parents that they knew would have to survive losing their child.

    The streams of sunshine in the summer lying on a blanket by the lake.

    They gave up so much, including the four Americans who died, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, I just wonder if all the Mrs. Clinton supporters think of this today.

  18. Heart, we will for get him ––
    ___ you and I tonight.
    I will forget the warmth he gave ––
    ___ you may forget the light the light.

    When you have done, pray tell me ––
    ___ that I my thoughts may dim.
    Haste! Lest while you're lagging ––
    ___ I may remember him.

    ~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

  19. Today is a somber day for me, and will always remain so....but I do enjoy contrary introspections, that encourage us to be positive about the meaning of the day.

    In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison made the following speech [excerpted]: I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. We mourn for them as comrades who have departed, but we feel the glory of their dying and the glory of their achievement covers all our great country, and has set them in an imperishable roll of honor.

    1. That's an interesting insight from President Benjamin Harrison. Thank you, CI, for posting that.


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