Saturday, May 17, 2014

Memorial Day In Arizona

    The last Monday of each May Americans everywhere join together to celebrate our nation’s Memorial Day.  Originally known as Decoration Day, the annual honoring of America’s war dead first began on May 30, 1868.
    On that day Major John Logon, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, authorized the decoration of the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery with flowers.  Some 5000 men, women and children set about the task of placing a bouquet of flowers on the grave of each fallen civil war soldier.
    New York became the first state of officially recognize the Decoration Day holiday in 1873.  By 1890 all the northern states decorated the graves of their war dead each May 30th.  War feelings, a short 25 years after the civil war, were still bitter and the southern states refused to recognize the northern holiday.
    But southern states had long been doing their part, decorating the graves of their fallen confederate soldiers as early as April, 1866 in the town of Columbus, Mississippi. Today as many as 25 different American towns claim to be the origin of Decoration Day, many of those towns in the south where so many of the civil war dead are buried.
    It would take Americans fighting together in World War I to unite the nation in celebration of Memorial Day.  It was then that Memorial Day changed from honoring those who died in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died in any war. 
    In December 1915 a poem written by Canada’s Colonel John McCrae expressed his deep sorrow of the “row on row” of graves of soldiers who had died on Flanders battlefields in western Belgium and northern France.  The poem created the image of bright red flowers mixed among the rows of white crosses.
    Two women, one from France and one from the United States, were inspired by Colonel McCrae’s poem and started the sale of artificial red poppies to aid the orphans and widows left behind from that terrible war.  In 1922 the United States Veterans of Foreign Wars adopted the poppy program and began to sell the artificial red poppies throughout the country. 
     The buying and wearing of a red poppy was a part of the Memorial Day tradition for many generations of Americans. The red poppy continues even today to be a perpetual tribute to all those American soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom.
     In 2000 the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act”.  It was enacted to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country.”  The Act encourages all Americans to “pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”  It was to be “a small way that we all can help to put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”
     Arizonans will again be celebrating and honoring our fallen war heroes in many locations around the state during the long Memorial Day weekend.  Be sure to be a part of those celebrations!  

                 Word to the notes of TAPS 
                                                                                                                                                                            "Fading light dims the sight, 
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright. 
From afar drawing nigh -- Falls the night.
"Day is done, gone the sun, 
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky. 
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
"Then good night, peaceful night, 
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright, 
God is near, do not fear -- Friend, good night.”

                         In Flanders Fields
                           By John McCrae

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.

A poem from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery

"Here Rests 
In Honored Glory 
An American Soldier 
Known But To God"

Here is the creed of those who guard the Unknown…

                      The Sentinels Creed

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. 
In the responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. 
And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection. 
Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, 
I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. 
It is he who commands the respect I protect. 
His bravery that made us so proud. 
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day alone in the thoughtful peace of night, 
this soldier will in honored glory rest under my eternal vigilance.
Phoenix's first cemetery

Graves from 1870 - 1920

Dawn at Arizona's National Cemetery, Phoenix

Grave sites at the National Cemetery

Memorial from Wesley Bolin Plaza, Phoenix

Bushmaster Memorial, Wesley Bolin Plaza

Jewish War Veterans Memorial, Wesley Bolin Plaza

Vietnam Memorial, Wesley Bolin Plaza

Confederate Soldier Memorial, Wesley Bolin Plaza

Korean War Memorial, Wesley Bolin Plaza

World War II Memorial, Wesley Bolin Plaza

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