Don't people know importance of Memorial Day observances?
I want to talk a little bit about Memorial Day. Decoration Day was started in 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War. An Army general by the name of Logan made a proclamation that May 30 would be set aside to honor our fallen comrades and their families, and it spread through the country like wildfire. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.
Shortly after World War I, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion were formed to encourage the government to build veterans' hospitals and to help disabled veterans any way they could.
You have all heard of the poem "In Flanders Field," which begins "In Flanders Field the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row." That's where the idea of making poppies to help our disabled veterans came from. The patients in the veterans hospital make the poppies, we pay them, and in return we take donations for them to help the disabled veterans and there families in our area.
After Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day to be observed the last Monday in May, it was all downhill from there. You hardly hear any mention of decorating the graves any more. It's all commercialized to start spring activity. The VFW and American Legion are doing what they can to keep it alive.
At 11 a.m. on Memorial Day, the American Legion has an "Avenue of Flags" at the Kenai Cemetery which is very impressive. There are 100 American flags lining the roadway through the graveyard and a full color guard, including the firing squad and taps. Speakers tell about fallen comrades. If we have eight or 10 people in attendance, we are lucky. Half of them are the wives or husbands of one of the participants. The VFW and American Legion have committees to see there is a small white cross for all the veterans that are buried at the Kenai Cemetery and the one in Kasilof.
At 1 p.m., the memorial service we have at Leif Hansen Memorial Park does a little better. We generally have a hundred or so attending unless it rains. The VFW and its auxiliary will be out in force all over Soldotna and Kenai this week with our poppy cans. All donations will be accepted.
Earl Jones ,Veteran of World War II, Kenai
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