Memorial Day: Red Flowers, Hats Off

by | May 31, 2010 | POLITICS

Ah, Memorial Day. It’s a wonderful day of not working, cookouts, and graveyards.

That’s right; many Americans, especially those who served in the military and their families, spend Memorial Day visiting with the glorious fallen. Originally made a federal holiday after the war of northern aggression Civil War (called Dedication Day), Memorial Day became Memorial Day after the first Great War. There are ceremonies, parades, and other observances all over the country, here’s a list of occurrences in Virginia if you’d like to know where to take your hat off. All over the nation, however, poppies are laid on graves and brought to memorials, in reference to a poem, In Flanders Fields (video of the song below), which tells of a battlefield in Flanders, France that is, still to this day, rife with red poppies. It was written by a Canadian, John McCrae, the day after witnessing the death of his friend Alexis Helmer in battle.

Ah, Memorial Day. It’s a wonderful day of not working, cookouts, and graveyards.

That’s right; many Americans, especially those who served in the military and their families, spend Memorial Day visiting with the glorious fallen. Originally made a federal holiday after the war of northern aggression Civil War (called Dedication Day), Memorial Day became Memorial Day after the first Great War. There are ceremonies, parades, and other observances all over the country, here’s a list of occurrences in Virginia if you’d like to know where to take your hat off. All over the nation, however, poppies are laid on graves and brought to memorials, in reference to a poem, In Flanders Fields (video of the song below), which tells of a battlefield in Flanders, France that is, still to this day, rife with red poppies. It was written by a Canadian, John McCrae, the day after witnessing the death of his friend Alexis Helmer in battle.

Locally, there is a ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial, for those who don’t know, that’s the glass building with the flags and the big statue of some broad that’s on Belvidere before you cross into southside. It houses the names of over eleven thousand Virginians who gave their lives for our country, from World War II through the current conflicts. I am lucky enough to not have a face for any of the names inscribed therein, although I often wonder how much longer I’ll have said grace.

What’s the point, you may ask? I’m not trying to bring you down, harsh your vibe, or make you feel shitty as you don’t do anything other than sleep in and eat red meat on your monday off. I started my Memorial Day weekend celebration early, shooting .22s, cooking out and swimming with friends on a small farm outside of the city, and I intend to repeat this practice several times. I’ll also call all of my veteran and active duty friends, at least the ones I can contact- I have several who are deployed, and there are those VA hospitals who cannot be readily reached.

My family is full of McBrides; we can’t trace ourselves directly to a Willie McBride who died in 1916 in Flanders, but the prevalence of this song (well before Dropkick so beautifully covered it) has always been a point of pride.

So here’s the point: Memorial Day isn’t just a day off. Freedom isn’t free, as cheesy as it sounds, and whether you agree or disagree with our current wars, the dead don’t deserve to be ignored because of your current political affiliations. You don’t get the day off because the government wanted you to get drunk and eat grilled food, and although it’s your right as an American to do so, if you enjoy that right, I ask that at three PM on Monday, take your hat off and be silent, even if it’s only long enough to drown a beer. Many maintain, of course, that the only way to properly hail the fallen is to drink in their honor; do what you will between hamburgers and dips in the pool.

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.




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