Reflections: Remembering Decoration Day!

Remembering Decoration Day!
By William L. Bulla
Weekly Contributing Writer

As a kid growing up in a little town in Northeastern Oklahoma, Decoration Day was a big event. In the morning my mother had us out early gathering flowers from the yard. With these flowers she made bouquets. They were then carefully placed into the car and we took them to the cemetery. When we arrived, my mother put the flowers into quart mason jars with water and we placed them on graves of family members and friends. Decoration Day had been formed to honor soldiers, but many people thought it was a great time to also honor loved ones as well.
Once this task was completed, we returned home for the part of the day I liked. There was always a parade with marching bands. It started on the West side of town and went down Main Street to a small park area on the East side. At this point the band played our National Anthem, the soldier veterans fired rifles in a salute, and a wreath was placed at the base of a big bronze statue of a running "Doughboy" with a rifle thrust out in front of him.
For that day my Dad and I always wore a paper poppy sold by the Veterans of Foreign War. The poppy was, and still is to this day, called the "Buddy Poppy".
Since 1922, disabled and needy veterans in VA Hospitals have assembled VFW Buddy Poppies. The sale of Buddy Poppies provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans' rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home for orphans and widows of our nation's veterans.
The poppy idea came from a poem written in 1915, by John McCrae, titled "In Flanders Field". In grade school I had to memorize that poem. I still remember the opening lines, "In Flanders Field the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row." Some of the bloodiest battles of World War I took place in the areas of northern France and southwest Belgium known as Flanders. This inspired McCrae, a Canadian doctor, to write "In Flanders Fields." He wrote it as he sat in the dressing area (where wounds were dressed) looking out at a field of graves. The poem was later published in Punch Magazine. McCrae died of pneumonia in 1918, a common killer of soldiers during that war. Inspired by McCrae's poem, American Moina Michael wore poppies to honor the war dead. She also began to sell poppies to raise money for disabled veterans. In 1922, the VFW began this project and it has continued through the years.
Nowadays, Decoration Day has changed its name. It is called Memorial Day, but still celebrated on May 31. Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country. Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11, the day Armistice was declared. It honors all men, living or dead, who have served our country.
Today, I don't always get out to watch parades on Memorial Day, but I do buy a Buddy Poppy and offer up a prayer of thanks for all those service men that helped to keep my country safe.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.