2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  HONORING FALLEN HEROES ON MEMORIAL DAY

MONDAY, MAY 31

 
"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 field.
 
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 field."
 
~  poem by John McCrae, "In Flanders Field," 1915
 
 
McCrae, a Canadian physician and Lt. Col., penned this popular poem during WWI after witnessing the death of his friend, 22-year-old Lt. Alexis Helmer.

The poppies referred to in the poem, which grew in profusion in Belgian battlefields and cemeteries, soon became a symbol of Remembrance Day in Canada and the UK.

Although not as commonly recited in our country's Memorial Day ceremonies, both the poem and the use of symbolic poppies are also a part of our tradition -- not as common as American flags and wreaths, however:.


Wreath laid at the U.S. Army Special Forces monument at Memorial Park

Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who have died while serving in the American military. It was originally called "Decoration Day" because it was a day to honor the people who died in the Civil War by decorating their graves. It later became known as Memorial Day and honors the dead from all of America's wars.

Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971. It is celebrated on the last Monday in May in our country. (Veteran's Day, observed in the U.S. on November 11, honors both living and dead members of the military.)


Rifles ready for a 21-gun Memorial Day salute in Colorado Springs today

Although some folks think of Memorial Day as simply a good excuse for a day off from work and the unofficial beginning of summer, most give at least some thought to the people who risked their lives in service to our country. Many communities have a parade or some type of gathering to commemorate our fallen heroes.

The most famous Memorial Day ceremony is held at Arlington National Cemetery, where each grave is marked with a small American flag for the holiday (and with wreaths in December). I took the next photo when Jim and I visited Arlington Ceremony in 2005, before the leaves were out. The graves weren't decorated then, but still beautiful:

I think it would be very special to be part of the crowd there on Memorial Day. Someday!

THE USAF ACADEMY CEMETERY

Although it's not as impressive as the national cemetery, the cemetery and memorial pavilion on the grounds of the Academy in Colorado Springs are very nice.

They're also very close to our campground on base, only a mile away. I've ridden my bike over there several times this past week. In honor of Memorial Day, each grave has been decorated with a flag:

 

 

 

MEMORIAL PARK ON MEMORIAL DAY: FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

Jim and I like to observe Memorial Day with more than a picnic, so we did a little research and discovered there would be a special observance at the aptly-named Memorial Park in Colorado Springs while we are still visiting the area.

This is a beautiful park just east of downtown. Like many areas of the city, there are great views of Pike's Peak in the background:

We got to see most of the large park and its lake while driving around, hunting for the site of the ceremony. We weren't sure of the exact location and arrived before the organizers and participants began assembling.

Then we spotted a hilltop filled with beautiful monuments. Hmmm . . . what's all that?

When we got out to investigate we not only had found the site where the ceremony would be held but we also discovered a treasure trove of over a dozen beautiful military memorials. We've never seen such a diverse, permanent military memorial like this. There are memorials for the different service branches, different conflicts, various infantry divisions, POWs and MIAs, Purple Heart recipients, fallen soldiers from nearby Fort Carson, military victims of terrorism, and others.

We're impressed! Every city should have a park like this.

It's not real surprising that such a memorial park would be located in Colorado Springs. There is a strong military presence in this area -- the North American Air Defense Command, Fort Carson Army Post, Peterson Air Force Base, U.S. Space Command, and Air Force Academy are all prominent players here.

Here are some of the monuments spread over the hillside above the lake:


Jim walks toward the monument for the "Timberwolves,"
the 104th Infantry Division in Europe during WWII


Inscription on the Navy/Marine monument:  "Dedicated to the sailors and
marines who honorably and faithfully serve our great nation in peace and war."


POW and MIA memorial in background; we don't remember who the wings are for.


Inscriptions on Korean War benches: "Freedom Is Not Free" and "America's Forgotten War"


Part of inscription:  "To honor those who fought in the Korean War 25 June 1950 - 27 July 1953.
United States casualties:  33,651 dead, 103,284 wounded, 8,177 missing, 7,140 POW"


Several other military monuments


I think this is an Air Force monument.

A veteran of the Viet Nam War, Jim was particularly drawn to this memorial for the men and women of Colorado who fought and died, were wounded, or are missing in action from that era:


Inscription: "Dedicated to the 619 Coloradoans who gave their lives
in service to their country [in] the Viet Nam War  1959-1975.
Take the time to remember, to reflect, to heal . . .
Some Gave All - All Gave Some"

Of all the memorials, this one struck me the most profoundly:


The Freedom Memorial: "In honor of those men and women in the United States Armed Forces
who have fallen and served in the global war on terrorism.  They were fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers,
sons, daughters.  Freedom from terror has a price . . . We will never forget September 11, 2001."

Seven beautiful stones commemorate those who died on or since 9-11 and those who continue to fight the war on terrorism.

THE CEREMONY

As people began to gather for the Memorial Day ceremony, I continued to wander around taking photos as inconspicuously as possible.

While Jim and I take this all very seriously, we aren't on the same page as some of these folks who are very active in their respective veteran military organizations. Most of the men and women in various types of uniforms at today's ceremony appeared to be veterans, not active duty. (Yes, Jim still fits quite nicely into his old Army uniforms but he doesn't wear them anywhere.)

 

 


The Purple Heart memorial

 

I'd estimate that about 200 people were in attendance when the ceremony began at 10 AM. I was happy to see some young people. Ceremonies like this seem to draw mostly older folks. It's a great education for school-age kids to be there, too.

After the opening gun salute, the speeches and wreath-layings at several of the memorials took about 30 minutes. Some folks were walking around taking pictures during the ceremony but I kept my seat, getting up just once near the end as the nearby Special Forces veterans were finishing laying wreaths at their monument:

Although we didn't know anyone in the crowd, as Americans (and for Jim, as a military veteran) we felt a special kinship. We're glad we attended the ceremony.

Next entry: Pike's Peak or Bust!

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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