Memorial Day – America, France and the United Kingdom

History binds us together. Today is Memorial Day in the United States of America, a day of remembrance held since the late 1800’s. It is a day to reflect and be grateful and to honor those who gave their lives to help their country and other countries gain or regain their freedom.

The tradition of wearing poppies to remember our fallen soldiers, sailors and air(wo)men is one that began in 1915 in America and then it spread to France, Belgium and the United Kingdom and beyond, where it continues today.

In 1915, inspired by the famous poem “In Flanders Fields*” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She conceived of the idea to wear red paper poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. The symbol was especially poignant for the families and comrades of those who had recently died in the Belgian red poppy fields of Flanders, in World War 1 – “the Great War, the war to end all wars” (we wish that had been so).

Moira was the first to wear this Memorial red poppy — and she sold poppies to her friends and co-workers — with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.

Later Madame Guerin, from France, was visiting the United States and learned this new custom. When she returned to France, she also made paper red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women.

This tradition then spread to other countries including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

In 1922, shortly before Memorial Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) became the first American veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement.

Today, the boy scout troops usually visit the graves of America’s fallen and place American flags upon their resting places. But, 125,000 American military never came home after World War 2, and many local people and international visitors pay their respects and acknowledge our gratitude to them in American Military Cemetaries on many continents.

When you travel, you have a chance to teach your children about the Great Evil which nearly won, especially in World War 2. Had it not been for these brave men and women, we would not have the better lives we have today.

So, please be mindful, and visit these islands of repose in:
__ Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands
__ France (especially for those who fell on D-Day, on the French beaches of Normandy, as the Allies opened their ground war to regain Europe from the Nazis)
__ Mexico, the Phillipines
__ North Africa – Tunisia
__ and even Thailand (where the British maintain the cemetery for British and American servicemen who died as prisoners of war, at the Bridge of the River Kwai camps).

Learn more and do not let them be forgotten:
American Military Cemeteries Overseas
American Military Cemeteries Overseas: specific sites

Travel is meant to broaden our minds and give us new perspectives about what has and is happening, so we can fashion a better present and future. It may seem strange to say ‘go visit a cemetery’, but I hope you will.

You can also actively participate with your thoughts and memories of a loved one at: America Remembers Her Veterans.

* By John McCrae, (1915): “In Flanders Fields”.

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©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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