Memorial Day

What Is Memorial Day?

Written by Susan Noyes Anderson on . Posted in Holiday Poems, Patriotic Poems

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©2013 Susan Noyes Anderson

I came across a question yesterday
that troubled me enough to pose it here.
“What is the meaning of Memorial Day?
Why do we celebrate it every year?”

The answers were surprising to my mind.
“A day of memory,” was one reply.
“We think about the good things in our lives
and raise a glass to happy days gone by.”

Another wrote of barbecues and picnics.
“We throw a great big party,” she explained.
“I bake a special cake: red, white, and blue.
It’s yummy! Last year, not one piece remained.”

“To visit cemeteries,” someone countered.
“They used to call it ‘Decoration Day.’
We decorate the graves of family members,
remembering the ones who’ve passed away.”

At last, one man recalled our fallen soldiers,
brave souls who made the greatest sacrifice.
“These days,” said he, “it seems we take for granted
the freedoms for which others paid the price.”

“Memorial Day’s for soldiers,” he repeated,
“and while I love to visit Grandma’s grave…
on this day, I pay tribute to the fallen:
the men, the women, and the lives they gave.”

And I had to agree. Have we forgotten
the basic meaning of this holiday?
I find no fault in honoring lost loved ones
or making time for families, food, and play.

But let’s be sure our children get the message,
undimmed by hope for peace or dread of war.
Our troops risk everything, as do their families;
and in their hearts, it’s us they’re fighting for.

We may not all agree on every battle;
but sometimes, only blood has kept us free.
These soldier’s lives are rendered more than sacred
when yielded in defense of you and me.

Shall we forget our reverence for these heroes,
these patriots who’ve kept our nation strong?
Will we dismiss a history that earned us
the choice to protest freely, right or wrong?

I hope not. And I hope we keep believing
in all the things that made this land first-rate.
Let none of us lose sight of pride and valor,
or be ashamed to call our country great.

Too many are ashamed, or worse, indifferent.
As apathy extends its stealthy hand,
we’re breaking up bedrock that used to ground us
and trading it for shallow, shifting sand.

We’re letting go of touchstones: Does this serve us?
Have patriots become the new uncool?
Do flag salutes infringe on children’s choices?
Should patriotic songs be banned at school?

Some view symbols as dated now, but are they?
Or are they links that forge a mighty chain?
Our lives are built upon the backs of heroes.
If freedom falls, they will have died in vain.

Can we afford to let go of traditions?
Is there no use in passing them along?
What does it mean when we stand for the anthem,
yet few recall the words to that great song?

What will it mean when no one stands at all…
not for the anthem, nor for anything?
The pride of cynics “goes before a fall.”
The pride of patriots lets freedom ring.

Our freedom rings through cities, states, and regions.
It rings across the mountains and the streams.
Give heed! Preserve the fabric of our nation
and raise that standard high on patriot dreams.

Hold fast to all we are and all we’ve stood for.
Lift up our fallen troops in memory.
Memorial Day is more than food and flowers.
It’s nurturing the roots that made us free.

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