Thoughts of Poppies
by Sarah Aitchison Jensen
“In Flanders Fields” and “Not to Keep” are arresting sentiments of love, sacrifice, and loss. They invoke great emotion and reverence for those who have given so much in the battle for man's freedom. On this Memorial Day, I'll celebrate the lives of those whom I had the privilege of loving beyond the events that made them men. I am living the legacy they built from the ashes of ruin and victory.
I knew a young medic who with trepidation entered a concentration camp to liberate the dying and broken. I'll remember that he made the best cornbread I've ever had, loved to take the kids to get fresh donuts, and always had a puzzle ready to do with us when we came to visit. We've long since said goodbye, but I hold memories of his generosity, service, and gentleness within my heart always.
I have had the privilege to know and love one who was just a boy when he stormed the beaches and was wounded. We've since lost him to the ravages of time and wounds that rob the mind of its faculties. But I hold dear the memories of gardening, cooking, shopping (lots of stores because he had to get the best deals), his sweet smile and his gentle spirit. His was a life of love and devotion.
I knew a sailor, a hard working Navy man, who loved me enough to help with my education; who found great joy in a family barbecue, the sports channel, and his petunia beds. I wish he could have held more of my children, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to have known him, to know the struggles that shaped him, to know the love he had for his country.
May we never, ever forget that the poems and songs are not just expression and emotion, they are the lives given of flesh and bone men and women. They are a lasting memoir to the struggles for autonomy. These are not just names etched onto rough, cold stone, no, they are our birthright, bought with precious blood; they are sacred.
Today, when the rifle calls shatter the still morning air and the keening of the bugle stirs anew a sense of nation, of homage, of allegiance; choose to live that their sacrifice has not been in vain. Let these memories bring us to a greater resolve, one that imparts to us courage to stand for right and truth, faith to move forward, and hope that this great nation has not seen her best days; but has been given an immeasurable gift by the best we could give- our men and women who wear the uniform of liberty.
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