Friday, May 22, 2009

Buddy Poppies For Memorial Day

Many people know and understand the significance of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it used to be known long ago, to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives in battle for our country.

Some people here still drape their porches with patriotic bunting and fly the American flag. Almost everyone I know celebrates the holiday in one way or another, but nowadays, it is more a celebration for having a day off from work than in remembrance. Picnics and cookouts, BBQ and lemonade are the order of the day, as they will be at my house, although I do fly the flag every day.

I grew up near the site of Rivers Bridge, where a Civil War battle took place between February 2nd and 4th in 1865 during Sherman's March To The Sea. South Carolina was on fire, literally, during that couple of weeks. Sherman burned his way through much of the lowcountry, where I live, destroying courthouses and homes and lives in the process. Such is War, of course, and there are always two sides of every conflict, but living here and working in and out of every Courthouse within a 50-mile radius of the battlefield, as a real estate and probate paralegal and genealogist for the past 30 years, I am intimately familiar with the effects of his ordered destruction of historical records and buildings, the loss of which is immeasurable and saddens me greatly.

To my knowledge, I did not lose any ancestors or family members to War, and for that I am thankful, but several of my ancestors fought in wars waged by and against this Country down through the years. My great, great grandfather, James R. Moseley, served as a private in the Confederate army and was captured and sent to Hart's Island, a Confederate internment camp in New York, where he remained until the War ended. Oral family history is that it took him almost a year to walk home to South Carolina.

Every year on the anniversary of the Battle of Rivers Bridge, a group of people reenacts the battle in historically accurate detail. People come from everywhere to watch the men and women in period costumes, and red crepe paper poppies are in abundant display. When I was a teenager, I volunteered to make red crepe paper poppies for the VFW. I was well-aquainted with one of the ladies in the Women's Auxilliary of the VFW, "Miss Olanthe" Ashe, who was our Clerk of Court for decades until her death in 1987. Miss Olanthe pressed me into service, so to speak, and we spent many a lunch hour in the little cloakroom in the Clerk of Court's office, making red crepe paper poppies to be sold by the auxilliary to help maintain the graves at the battlesite and the site itself.

Whenever I think of Memorial Day, I think of those red, crepe paper poppies, which are now officially known as "Buddy Poppies", but I did not learn until I was older the reason we made poppies in particular, so I thought I would post the poem from which the idea came, and salute the men and women who gave of themselves and made the ultimate sacrifice so we can live free. Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

by John McCrae

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.


Arlene Harrison said...

My late husband was retired Navy and many members of my extended family either served or are serving in various branches of the military. I admire and respect the people who sacrifice their time, their welfare and even their life to keep our freedom strong.
Thanks for the great message.

SharonP said...

Thank you for sharing that touching story. Sometimes we forget the sacrifices our ancestors made to keep us free.

One year to walk from New York to South Carolina...that's endurance to be proud of!

Lynda said...

Thank you, ladies, for your nice comments and remembrances.