Memorial Day is our most solemn of national observances, carved into the calendar lest we forget the sacrifices of those who have fought to defend our nation. Soldiers and sailors are still called upon, if necessary, to make similar sacrifices. It is right, on this day, that we show our gratitude by honoring their graves and remembering all they have given – which is all they had to give.
Sometimes, poets do a better job than editorial writers in providing insight. We offer two, one written in 1915 by John McCrae. A surgeon, he had been in the trenches at the Battle of Ypres, where he watched his best friend die by an artillery shell.
In Flanders Field
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, 1872-1918
Merced World War II veteran Henry DePertuis submitted his thoughts about a different field, filled with fallen comrades. We supplied the title.
Remembering them all this day
I saw the graves of ten thousand dead
above a beach in Normandy,
and crosses white against the grass
as far as I could see.
And ten thousand mothers wept.
I saw some graves on a lonely hill
Near where an old pine tree stood.
Some were marked with granite stone,
some were only wood.
Among the graves was prairie sage
and piles of tumbleweeds.
Some were covered with grasshoppers,
some with centipedes.
I saw some names I had known
from my childhood days, so long ago
when the prairie was my home.
No one weeps for them anymore.
I saw the graves in Arlington
where green grass grows among the trees.
And I saw the flags, their colors unfurled
in the gentle autumn breeze.
Then I saw a wreath being laid
on a marble stand
where the unknown soldier lays,
known only unto God.
We will remember and honor them all.
On this Memorial Day.
Henry DuPertuis, Merced