In December of 2000, Congress established the Presidential Commission on Remembrance. The emphasis of this bipartisan group is upon the families of those who have not returned. At 3 p.m. today, we are encouraged to stop whatever we are doing and observe a moment of silence. If on the road, flash your car lights off and on. For more information, visit www.remember.gov.
It's a simple thing - wearing a poppy, and yet more than a colorful accessory, the small red flower pinned to a hat or a shirt collar reminds us. It is Memorial Day. We are called upon to come to a stop, to understand why and how we can enjoy so much. The day has been declared a national holiday. The calendar is marked accordingly, we make our plans for outings with family and friends, but a deeper and louder voice comes from within.
We can't remember when we first heard it, back when we didn't know about responsibility, long, hot days when we ran barefoot in backyards and played in the cooling shade, unaware of much outside ourselves. The learning of it slipped up on us, that summer always turned into autumn, that winter would arrive. For some, that innocence lasted a long time. Others found out too quickly that good things came to an end. The longer we live, the more mindful we become and the more appreciative of having those we love around us. We savor summer.
And yet we feel the crinkles of the paper poppy. It was put together by a veteran, someone who returned home from weeks or months or years of military service. That veteran, while he creased and folded, was thinking of the others, the ones who did not return, the ones who will never see another winter change into spring. They marched with full knowledge that they might have seen their last summer. They are the reason we feel compelled to hear the message of Memorial Day.
We Americans have been listening to their voices since the days after generals Lee and Grant met at Appomattox. Decoration Day, as it was first called, became an official national holiday in 1918. That year, the flowers that were the color of blood bloomed in Flanders Field, and women of the American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as a way to remember the more than 100,000 who died during a war that involved 27 countries.
Today, at our cemetery on the hill, our veterans will conduct the traditional service in observance of Memorial Day. We'll look at the small flags so carefully placed on graves and at the poppies so proudly worn by our friends and neighbors. We'll share silent thoughts and we'll listen - to the bugler playing "Taps" and to the voices of those who will never see another summer.
It's a simple thing - wearing a poppy, and yet :
We need reminding.