The Indianapolis 500 took place on Sunday, and while I wasn’t there this year, my son was.
But Memorial Day is more than just the official launch of Summer here, more than just a car race. It began after the American Civil War in 1868 as “Decoration Day,” established as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Officially, Memorial Day is the last Monday in May.
In the US, it is a 3-day holiday weekend. Banks are closed on Monday, and the US Postal Service is also closed. The American flag is traditionally set at half-staff until noon to honor all those whose lives have been given in the service of our country. At noon, it is raised to the top of the staff, signifying that we, as a nation, will rise again.
After each great and terrible war of the last two centuries, the hope was always that we had fought a “war to end all wars.” World War I, also known as The Great War, was spoken of in literature as just that: a war to end all wars.
With each conflict we still hope, but we are less able to believe it.
From Wikipedia: “In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. “In Flanders Fields“ was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.
Sources and Attributions
In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, PD|75 years
John McCrae died of pneumonia January 28, 1918, near the end of the Great War. In Flanders’ Fields is a staple poem for Memorial Day services.
Wikipedia contributors, “In Flanders Fields,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=In_Flanders_Fields&oldid=781662754 (accessed May 28, 2017).
1912 Indianapolis 500, Joe Dawson winning, Image By Bain News Service, publisher [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons