Memorial Day has been called the unofficial start of summer.
However, beyond the cookouts and pool openings is a holiday that symbolizes much more.
This is a holiday of enormous importance to me personally. It is an occasion to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and way of life.
Memorial Day History and Meaning of the Poppy
While the town of Simsbury will celebrate 100 years of Memorial Day Parades this year, Connecticut Public Broadcasting says the honoring of America’s war dead was originally called Decoration Day and became more organized and widespread following the Civil War. It satisfied people’s need for patriotic observances, as well as an occasion to decorate service members’ graves.
Memorial became an official U.S. holiday in 1971.
Many know that I am incredibly proud to be the son of Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient Master Sergeant Michael J. Keating. My father served in the Korean War, and through him I learned a great respect for our country and those who serve it. Since the draft ended following the Vietnam War, our armed forces have been an all-volunteer operation.
That is one of the reasons I was so affected by the death of my neighbor, Lance Corporal Lawrence R. Philippon, who bravely gave his life serving the Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. He was a young man in the prime of his life who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, saving fellow soldiers in the process. His actions earned him the Navy and Marine Corp Commendation Medal with Valor.
On Memorial Day, we are called to remember and honor the sacrifices of the generations of brave men and women who died in the service of our country. It is for them that members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars give poppies in exchange for donations.
If you did not know, the poppy became a symbol for our nation’s fallen during World War I. A Canadian serviceman noted that the colorful flowers were the first to grow on the war-torn battlefields and wrote the poem From Flanders Fields.
American Miss Moina Michael was so moved by the poem, she lobbied for its adoption to honor U.S. service members who lost their lives. I’d like to share that poem with you in honor of the fallen.
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.
John McCrae, May 1915
From all of us at Keating Insurance, God bless and a happy and safe Memorial Day to you and your family.