Expressions of Freedom: Memorial Day Special

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memorial day special Expressions of freedom

In Honor of Memorial Day


memorial day special Maya angelou quoteI am a veteran. Over 20 years ago I retired from the United States Air Force. I am also the daughter, granddaughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law and mother of veterans. In three generations, my family has supported our nation in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. My husband and I are different than all the rest though. We are the only two in the list who never saw combat; we are cold war veterans.

Then I am asked to do a Memorial Day article. Who better than I? I can say with grateful prayers, none of the service men in my family died in the service. So there are many more qualified than me, many more intimate with the meaning of the day. My idea of Memorial Day is marching in my hometown Memorial Day parade and going with my father and his American Legion post to the cemeteries to lay flowers and flags on servicemen’s graves.



memorial day special Mark Gresswell quote

Thus begins the research

So as any good writer would do, I started researching my topic: Memorial Day. Very little is said about its history. General John A. Logan declared that 30 May 1868 was “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” It was originally in honor of Union and Confederate soldiers who died while serving and became known as Decoration Day.  In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance Act was signed into law. 3:00 p.m. local time was selected for people across the United States to stop what they’re doing for a moment of silence to honor soldiers who died while on active duty.

Memorial Day is a day of prayers and poetry. #MemorialDay #dayofSelfExpression Click To Tweet

While little authoritative information was found in my research, I did find something quite interesting. Memorial Day is a day of prayers and poetry. Look in your web browser under Memorial Day. Once you get past all the ads for Memorial Day sales, you find Memorial Day flags and flowers, poppies and poems. Francis A. Walker once said, “We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.” And in doing so, Memorial Day has become an American day of self-expression.


memorial day special Expressions of freedom

Expressions of Freedom

Rather than going on with a lot of prattle about the holiday, looking for angles to make it fit into the niche of the Exploring Expression blog site, I selected one poem to share with you. There were many to choose from, including lyrics to many popular modern songs. But as a veteran, with many friends and family members who are veterans, this is the poem that I kept going back to. This was the poem that most closely touched my Memorial Day emotions. I hope it touches yours as well.


By Kelly Strong

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He’d stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers’ tears?
How many pilots’ planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?
No, freedom isn’t free.

I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant “Amen,”
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn’t free.



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