Among the Poppies | A Memorial Day Story

When you're fifteen, the world can seem to be mainly about you. It makes sense. So many changes! But, it's also a time when, if you're brave enough to look up, you might find that the world is about something even bigger. And it just might beckon you to step into it and make a difference. 

Here is a his-story of Memorial Day from across two families, through the eyes of one fifteen year old girl. 

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This post continues our emphasis on STORY in your homeschool - enjoy!

Why does it always rain on holidays?

"Seriously," she thought, "why does it always rain on holidays?" Her grumbling continued as she thought of the upcoming field-trip planned by her parents for this holiday. She just didn't get it. Didn't we just celebrate Veteran's Day? What's the big deal? She'd much rather curl up under her blanket today and read. 

But, no. The entire family would pack up and head to the town square where some kind of flag thing was happening. "It's a flag ceremony," her Dad reminded her. "Raising the U.S. flag quickly to the tops of flagpoles, slowly lowering it to half-mast, and then raising again to its full height at noon. The lowering of the flag at half-mast is meant to give honor to the fallen soldiers who have died for their country over the years. While re-raising the flag is meant to symbolize the resolve of the living to carry on the fight for freedom so that the nation's heroes will not have died in vain.", her Dad went on, reading from the website on his smartphone.  Abby just sighed as she thought, "Details." 

She pulled on her rain boots, grabbed her umbrella, and followed the rest of her family to the van. "This is going to be a long day," she said under her breath. 


Why all the crowds?

Abby couldn't believe what she saw. It was standing room only on the town square. And on a holiday, no less! 

She took in the sights, following her parents to seats among the folding chairs. She decided to take the seat towards the end, where she might excuse herself to walk around when this got boring. Which it promised to do. She was promptly asked to leave the end chair open for late-comers. "Great," she thought, "Now I'll be seated next to a total stranger. And they'll want to talk. About this." 

It wasn't long before the seat was taken. But, to her surprise, the person who took the chair look to be her age. She was quiet and held a piece of paper and a small bouquet of red poppies. Her curiosity was piqued. The girl was solemn. And she seemed to be alone. 


Red Poppies

The scene continued to interest Abby. Because of the red poppies her seat neighbor held, she now noticed them worn on many lapels. Another curiosity. After many speakers, older men recounting lost friends or family, the girl next to her stood and went to the podium. 

She took the paper she'd held in her hands and began to read. It seemed to Abby that she could do little else, for tears came down the girls face. In a brave voice, the girl read a brief statement, "I am here today to honor my father, Chief Warrant Officer Michael O'Riley. He was killed in combat in Mosul on April 21, 2015. My hero." 

She proceeded to read this poem:

In Flanders Fields



In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.


Something bigger

Abby now knew what Memorial Day meant. It meant sharing more than just the history of a long-forgotten war. It was the mutual sharing and remembering of the sacrifices experienced by those who serve. And their families left behind.

She pondered, for the first time, what the word serve meant. Then, she turned around in her mind that those in the military are often called "in the Service." Because, to her, service meant there was someone who was served. She wiped her eyes. There, among the poppies, she realized she was the one served.

Note Bene

Often our children have trouble making the connection between the holidays we celebrate and their true meanings.

It's easy to get Veteran's Day, Independence Day, and Memorial Day mixed-up. Even for adults! What is a holiday, anyway?

It's a marker that honors an event that a nation, church, or individual wishes to recall.

Beyond using the poem above for copy and memory work, following are links and ways to help keep Memorial Day well (and separate from Veteran's Day). 


Homeschool Tips to Celebrate Memorial Day

Seven Kid Friendly Memorial Day Activities

God's Chapel - God's Nation: Remembering 9/11

Red Poppy Craft

Free Memorial Day Unit Study


Recommended resources:

Use these books to help learn about Memorial Day and the importance of sacrifice. There are recommendations for all ages.

Sometimes we haven't been able to do a full-fledged study of a holiday, but adding some books has been sufficient!

A Memorial Day Memory: Memorial Day Picture Book for Children which includes a Memorial Day ParadeJohnny TremainThe Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to VeteransDon't Forget, God Bless Our TroopsH is for Honor: A Military Family AlphabetThe Wall (Reading Rainbow Books)What the Baby SawThe Red Badge of CourageThe Things They CarriedCatch-22: 50th Anniversary EditionMemorial Day (Holidays in Rhythm and Rhyme)