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
Wreath laid at the U.S. Army Special Forces monument at
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
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
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
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
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
Inscription on the Navy/Marine monument: "Dedicated to the
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
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,
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.
As people began to gather for the Memorial Day ceremony, I continued to
wander around taking photos as inconspicuously as
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
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,
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!
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil