I feel fortunate to have clear memories of what Memorial Day signifies. When I was a kid growing up in North Dakota, this was a day where everyone I knew actually did commemorate the fallen American soldiers, who had died for our country as far back as the Civil War. Flowers were placed on the graves and memorials of these brave men and women to honor the fact that they made the ultimate sacrifice. A huge amount of patriotism was displayed as flags waved in most every yard and place of business, our national anthem – The Star Spangled Banner – boomed from horn and drum across our great land, and the smoke from charred hot dogs (gotta love ‘em) blanketed picnic grounds the country over.
Thousands and thousands of bright red, paper poppies were sold all over the United States in support of World War II Veterans. These crinkly poppies went for a 5¢ piece, and were worn with pride by all Americans. To us kids, they were like badges of honor. Perhaps this is another reason why the California poppy is so special to me, even though it is not the same poppy as the Poppy Day poppy.
I love springtime in California, when poppies suddenly appear in their glorious orange splendor, standing tall and bright on spidery stems, but strong and hardy nonetheless. These common poppies can be seen everywhere, from ditches to the best-kept yards, and each and every time I catch a glimpse at them, they remind me of the uncommon valor of our soldiers, the fragility of life, and the indebtedness I have for them for keeping America the land free and the home of the brave.
The Star Spangled Banner ?link to complete lyrics
By Francis Scott Key 1814
Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?