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We Shall Keep the Faith – Memorial Day Thoughts

The poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith” was penned by Moina Michael in November 1918 in response to her inspiration of the poem, “In Flanders Fields” written earlier that year by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.   Ms Michael made a personal pledge to “keep the faith” and hastily penned her response in poetic form on the back of a used envelope.  From that day she vowed to wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance.

In 1922 the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) became the first veterans’ organization to sell the poppies.  In 1948 the United States Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3-cent stamp with her likeness on it.

We Shall Keep the Faith

Moina Michael

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that we have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Memorial Day in Waterloo, New York

There are many stories surrounding the origin of Memorial Day.  As stated in an earlier blog this week, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1966, officially declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

In 1865, prominent Waterloo businessman, Henry C. Welles, garnered the support of General John B. Murray-himself a civil war hero-to begin plans for a local citizen’s committee to organize festivities honoring current veterans as well as fallen veterans.

On May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York, flags were flown at half-mast and were decorated with black to signify the mourning of the fallen soldiers.  The community of Waterloo, both public and civic sectors, led a march to each of the community’s three cemeteries.

In March of 1966, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller signed a proclamation recognizing Waterloo as the origin city of Memorial Day.  The proclamation was later adopted by Congress and read, in part, “Resolved that the Congress of the United States, in recognition of the patriotic tradition set in motion one hundred years ago in the Village of Waterloo, New York, does hereby officially recognize Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day…”

Good Idea:  Check your local listings for your area’s Memorial Day celebrations

In Flanders Field

Flanders Fields was a World War 1 battlefield in the medieval County of Flanders, located just outside southern Belgium and northwest France.  On May 3, 1915 Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae penned the poem “In Flanders Fields” after he witnessed the death of his good friend, 22 year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.  The poem was first published in December 1915 in the London-based magazine Punch.

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae, 1915

 

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
Scare heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We live, 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, through poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Celebrate Arbor Day with a History Lesson

Arbor Day 2011:  Friday, April 29

The first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska.  Journalist Julius Sterling Morton was a recent pioneer to the Nebraska territory; his home state of Michigan having hailed many trees.  Not only did Morton and his wife miss their trees, he realized that trees were needed as windbreaks to keep soil in place, for building materials, for economic growth, and to serve as shade from the hot sun.

Earth Day 2011 – April 22

Earth Day was first envisioned by Senator Gaylord Nelson in the early 1960s because he was concerned that politicians were not addressing environmental issues.  This concern was spurred by a trip Nelson made to Santa Barbra following the massive oil spill in 1969.  Nelson organized a national grassroots effort in the spring of 1970 to promote conservation and environmental awareness.  This first Earth Day in the United States helped pave the way for the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as the passage of the Clear Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

The History of April Fools’ Day… Maybe

April Fools’ Day is celebrated on April 1.   It appears only speculation exists as to where the celebration originated and for what reason.

The most common theory is that it dates to 1582 when France adopted the Gregorian Calendar.  At his time, New Year’s Day moved from April 1 to January 1.   Because some people either did not hear about the change due to slow communication, or… through stubbornness… refused to accept the date change, April 1 became known as Fool’s Day.

Women in History- Florence Nightingale

Early in life, Florence knew she wanted to choose a life of service to others.  Born into a family of wealth, Florence was sheltered in many ways by her parents.  Her father educated her at home and opposed the idea of Florence going into nursing.  In fact, Florence later wrote that she felt suffocated and stymied by the wealth of her family as well as the social expectations that this brought.

While Florence had a number of suitors, she felt that marriage would enslave her with domestic responsibilities.  Following the worst of the Crimea War, in 1855 Florence was asked by an old friend -Sydney Herbert- to hire and organize a group of nurses for the war efforts in Crimea.

Women’s History Month- Katharine Graham

Katharine Meyer Graham’s father, Eugene Meyer, bought the Washington Post at a bankruptcy auction in 1933.   Katharine worked summers at the Washington Post during her college years.  In 1940, Katharine married Philip Graham, a graduate of Harvard Law School.  Katharine’s father sold the Washington Post to Phillip and Katharine for one dollar in 1948, not long after Philip’s discharge from the U.S. Army.

Women’s History Month- Wilma Rudolph

…Against All Odds

Wilma Rudolph was a winner in every sense of the word!   She overcame many hardships, difficulties, disabilities, and trials to become a national hero in perseverance!

Wilma was born in 1940 in Clarksville, Tennessee.  Wilma was the 20th child out of 22 children born to a very poor family during the depression era years.  Due to her premature birth, she experienced many illnesses…measles, mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever, and pneumonia.   Then the unthinkable became reality.  Doctors told her mother that Wilma had crippling polio and would never walk.