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
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.
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
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.
Another Memorial Day is almost upon us. Many people view Memorial Day as the annual passage from Spring to Summer. Memorial Day often means boating, beaches, and sunburns.
The true origination of Memorial Day is often forgotten in the hubbub of summertime fun. Memorial Day, which was originally called Decoration Day, is a holiday that was established as a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our nation.
Various cities and towns claim to have been the birthplace of Memorial Day. President Lyndon B. Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966. Below is an accepted timeline of the history of Memorial Day:
We can all recite the famous line from Patrick Henry’s speech on March 23, 1775. The famous speech ended, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
So, what is “Liberty’?