While for most people today is a time to have fun, it is also important to remember the purpose: to honor those who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we not only take for granted, but which some of us are so willing to abandon.

Not to be confused with Veterans Day, this day of remembrance has a long tradition, and goes back to the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.”

The wearing of poppies in honor of America’s war dead is traditionally done on Memorial Day, not Veterans Day. The practice of wearing of poppies takes its origin from the poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by John McCrae. For information on how to obtain poppies for use on Memorial Day, contact a veterans service organization, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) or The American Legion, as a number of veterans organizations distribute poppies annually on Memorial Day. You can find veterans groups in the Veterans Service Organization link on VA’s Veterans Day web page. Veterans groups in your area can be found in your local phone book. Look in the yellow pages under “Veterans and Military Organizations” or a similar heading.

The Flanders poppy is a beautiful, resilient and poignant looking plant which springs up this time of year — a perfect symbol of remembrance of fallen soldiers.

A few pictures:

A modern photo of Flanders Field:

And from an older Jawa report post, a painting of what the soldier poet was writing about:

I found a Flanders Poppy which is struggling to emerge:

Almost as if it wants to be a reminder of something that should not be forgotten.

MORE: While the Flanders Poppy is a symbol of fallen soldiers, Glenn Reynolds links a deeply moving and very real story about a young widow who slept by her husband (who was in a coffin) one last time. A Marine honor guard even made the bed for her and stood by. The author concludes,

If you do nothing else, you can remember those who have given their lives for their country. Our country. Remembrance, which may seem a modest contribution in the moment, is a sacred act with long-term payoff — a singularly human gift that keeps on giving, year after war-fatigued year. I don’t need to remind you that America’s sons and daughters are still dying in combat. I don’t want to browbeat you into feeling guilty for not doing more. Instead, I want to tell you that as the wife of a veteran, it is tremendously meaningful to know that on this Memorial Day, civilians will be bearing witness and remembering in their own way — that those who are gone are not forgotten. I also want to say that as you remember them, we remember you.

Thank you.

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