Monday, 25 May 2020 12:11

COLUMN: Honoring our fallen soldiers

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The meaning of Memorial Day is "remembrance:” a day to honor our fallen soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.


Some folks get Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day confused. You see, Memorial Day — or Decoration Day as it was called until 1971 — started just after the Civil War. On this day, families would place flowers and wreaths on the graves of Civil War soldiers. Armistice Day, as it was called, started on Nov. 11, 1918, on the day the first World War ended, but was later changed to Veterans Day after World War II. It is a day to recognize our military people who are serving at present or have served in their lifetime. Both days are national holidays.

Although several major wars had been fought on American soil, the American Civil War took more American lives than all the wars put together. More than 620,000 soldiers lost their lives. The greatest fear of a Civil War soldier was to die as an unknown soldier on a battlefield, unknown to their families back home and forgotten in time. Many times, after a Civil War soldier was killed, or died from disease, they were buried close to where they fell.

The loss of so many lives during this terrible war brought about the need for national cemeteries like Arlington. But in reality, most soldiers were buried in mass unmarked graves all over the country. A soldier could go off to war and never be heard of again. It wasn’t until the World Wars that dog tags were worn around the necks of every soldier to hopefully identify him.

The American soldier has served or fought in just about every country in the world. Most fought, or are fighting, to retain the way of life they love and cherish for them and their families. They sometimes sacrifice their bodies and their minds for our great country.

Calvin Coolidge once said, “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

Emily Potter said, “Heroes never die, they live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who would follow in their footsteps.”

Although we can never repay our fallen soldiers for their sacrifices, it is well we remember them in history as well as songs and poetry.

A poem that comes to my mind for this Memorial Day is written by Ken Temples. It speaks of the soldiers who fought in the Great Civil War, but it is so relevant in today’s world and thus honoring the many soldiers that lie in unmarked graves all over the world. Below are some excerpts from his poem.

“Memorials in the Wind”

By Ken Temples

As the leaves went blowing gently, across the consecrated ground

They carried with them the cannon’s booming sound.

The sound of young men dying, upon a bloodstained field

This memory they carried with them, they would not stop or yield.

 

As he gasped his last breath, he fell whispering upon the leaves.

Please, never forget our honor, our death may you never grieve.

So the leaves kept pushing onward, in vibrant yellow, orange, red,

across the nation’s battlefields, where legions of men lay dead.

As they swept across the sacred soil of the gallant and the brave,

They came and gathered together, upon a soldier’s grave.

It was there they offered themselves, as the soldier’s bivouac cover

From the cloud of misty dew, that was soon to come and hover,

Above the forgotten bed, of one so pure and true,

They were trying to remind us, of what we need to do.

How they fell upon a country’s alter, their aggressors did they foil,

But they are not alone a martyr; there are regiments beneath the soil.

So, tomorrow with the breeze, they will blow on across the ground,

Searching on for other fallen soldiers, who have yet to be found.

They are the natural guardians of those who are forgotten,

Who lie beneath the peach trees and rows of white cotton.

Fallen leaves they may be, who go blowing all alone,

As a simple traveling memorial for those who have no stone.

As we observe this Memorial Day may we never forget our unsung heroes.

J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together” and his just-released book “Southern Fried: Down Home Stories.” Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.