Saturday, May 31, 2008
Memorial Day has come and gone...
but we continue to remember. I saw two images this week that I wanted to share with you. This photo was taken last Monday by my new blogger friend, Pat, at the national cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her brother, who died at 28 in Vietnam, is buried. The expanse of headstones reminded me of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where I once witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The photo also reminds me that thousands and thousands of people have given their lives in the defense of our country and to preserve our liberties, our freedoms, our way of life. I don’t know how many graves are in the Little Rock cemetery, but Arlington has over 250,000 according to one source.
And this photo of red poppies
growing in a field in France is also a poignant reminder to those of a certain age of our American war dead. It was taken by another new blogger friend, Papy Biou, who lives in France. When I was young, the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars sold red paper poppies every Armistice Day (November 11th) and Memorial Day (May 30th) to raise funds for their organizations. People wore them in their lapels in remembrance of our fallen heroes of both World War I and II. Last November on Veterans Day, I wrote about the end of World War I in a post entitled, “In Flanders Fields” and included the famous poem that begins, “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow/ between the crosses, row on row.” Whenever I see red poppies, and these captured by Papy are beautiful, I always think of that poem, and the reason it was written, and the American cemeteries in France as a result of the two World Wars.
To date, more than 4,000 Americans have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over 58,000 names are engraved on the low black wall called the Vietnam Memorial. Over 54,000 died during the Korean conflict, over 408,000 in World War II, over 116,000 in World War I, over 25,000 in the American Revolutionary War. Most heartbreaking of all are the figures for the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 until 1865, because Americans were killing Americans. At a time when our nation’s population was around 31,000,000 people (a tenth of what it is now), the combined dead of the War Between The States is estimated at 562,000. And, lest we forget, thousands more have given their lives over the past 233 years in what are now considered minor wars and skirmishes.
Let us resolve, with Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We remember them. Better late than never.