We forget today just what an impact World War I had on the lives of its participants and their families. This blog post will focus on three ways to keep the holiday from the point of view of three different nationalities; but first, a bit of history on Decoration Day (to be later named Memorial Day) is in order.
HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868
1. The 30th day of May, 1868, is 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 church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
2. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
3. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of
JOHN A. LOGAN,
WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.
From the United States: Learn About and Donate to Efforts to Build a National WW1 Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The World War One Centennial Commission is undertaking a grass roots effort to raise funds to build a WW1 memorial in Washington D.C. The Commission held a design competition in 2015/16 and Lead Designer Joseph Weishaar’s project, “The Weight of Sacrifice,” won the competition. The document below is an op-ed piece written by Mr. Weishaar, and it contains a link to more details on the project.
From Flanders: Plant a Virtual Poppy Online
Each year the Flanders House in New York City organizes a Memorial Day celebration in late May and each year poppies are distributed. During the centennial years, the packets encourage planters to also plant a virtual poppy online at www.flandersfields1418.com/poppyfield.
From Germany: Learn About the Volksbund (War Graves Association)
This weekend France’s President, François Hollande, and Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will be participating in numerous ceremonies at Verdun; and this will mark the first visit of a German Chancellor to the City of Verdun! This is occurring 32 years after French President, François Mitterand, and German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, met at Fort Douaumont.
So, in the spirit of reconciliation during the Centennial celebration the webmaster encourages readers to look at the Volksbund’s website, especially its centennial page: http://www.100-jahre-erster-weltkrieg.eu/home.html.
(Note: The names flashing on the top of the page are those of 309 known German dead from 100 years ago today, 28 May, 2016.)