The Poppy Wall of Honor

During today’s last lunchtime bike ride before Memorial Day, I was riding along the National Mall near The National World War II Memorial when I saw some sort of red display in the distance on the southwestern side of The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. So, naturally, I rode over to get a better look and find out about it. It turned out to be a new, temporary monument in honor of Memorial Day called The Poppy Wall of Honor.

Since World War I, more than 645,000 men and women have given their lives in combat to defend our freedom. And the poppy flower serves as a symbol of that sacrifice. Wearing a poppy flower, known as a Remembrance Poppy, is done on Memorial Day and Veterans Day as a way to honor these fallen heroes. I remember my Dad always had a remembrance poppy at both Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

My Dad would also recite a poem from memory entitled “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Physician during the First World War. McCrae was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it.

“In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8th of 1915. And it became so popular that the poem and poppy became prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Inspired by the poem, the poppy flower also became an American symbol of remembrance in 1920 when it was brought forward by Moina Michael, an American professor and volunteer for the American YWCA, during the National American Legion Conference.

Sponsored by the USAA Company in cooperation with the National Park Service, The Poppy Wall of Honor is a 133-foot-long, 8 1/2 foot-tall translucent structure filled with more than 645,000 synthetic Remembrance Poppy Flowers, one for each fallen American service member. This year the exhibit also honors the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

The Poppy Wall of Honor is open to the public daily for viewing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., through Memorial Day. But if you can’t visit it in person, there’s also an online virtual reality experience for viewers to explore.

 

[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

The Poppy Wall of Honor

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

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.

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