Daddy and the Poppies

 Image by Roman Grac from Pixabay

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13 NIV

One of the earliest memories I have is of my father “buying” me a poppy from a man in a military uniform outside our church on a Sunday morning. As I grew older, I came to understand when Dad put money in the can, he was donating to a local veterans’ organization.

A World War II veteran of the US Army, my father didn’t talk about his service. He’d been defending the continental United States on the godforsaken island of Attu when he was wounded. Shrapnel in his spine left him recuperating in a VA hospital for a year.

How I wish I would have asked more questions! But I was young with my own life ahead of me, and had little, if any, interest in something that didn’t directly affect me.

Now I regret that selfish attitude. I realize my roots are as important as my wings. I have plenty of questions now. Where was he stationed? What was his Army job? I know he’d attained the rank of sergeant but little else. I may never know this side of eternity. My parents, and that generation of relatives who could have given me answers, are all gone now.

I wrote to the Veteran’s Administration for my dad’s service records, but unfortunately a fire destroyed them. I researched “Attu” online and learned that had the Japanese won that historic battle on the westernmost Aleutian island, we may well have fought World War II on continental American soil. I sent for the DVD of the PBS documentary, Red, White, Black, and Blue, “a wrenching look at a forgotten battle.”

But I’d rather have the story from my father’s point of view. It would mean so much more to me.

So every year, in memory of my father, I “buy” a poppy and entwine it on my purse. When I had my grandchildren with me, I’d get one for them, too.

“My daddy—your great-grandfather—always got me a poppy,” I’d say. “Do you know where the idea for poppies came from?”

Then I tell them about the poem written by Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915, during World War I: “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row.”

I tell them about Moina Michael, who, in response to McCrae’s poem, went out and bought a bouquet of poppies and distributed them, asking that they be worn in tribute to the fallen. Donations were given to servicemen in need.

If I still have their attention—and I make sure I do—I recite the verse she penned:

“We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a luster to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead in Flanders Field.”

“And today,” I say, concluding the brief history lesson, “red poppies are made by disabled veterans in hospitals, with the donations going to support a variety of veterans’ organizations.”

And then I give them each a poppy.

Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. –Proverbs 3:3 

Father, let the poppy also remind us of the sacrifice Your Son made for our eternal freedom. Amen.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Don’t Forget To Remember

 

20160527_122657

Flags in memory of and in honor of veterans wave in a grassy field outside of Punxsutawney , thanks to Dick and Ava Bishop of Punxsutawney, who set up the display and provide the flags and cards to anyone who wants to place a flag.

 

“In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones, mean?’ tell them . . .” Joshua 4:21–22 (NIV)

With three grandchildren on different ball teams (plus one of them umpires), hubby and I are at the Punxsutawney Little League Fields just about every evening. After the sixth game in four days, I told Dean we should park our camper at the ball field.

The Punxsutawney Little League complex is almost a second home to us, as we spent many a summer afternoon and evening there when our youngest played baseball. Five well-maintained and lighted ball fields for Minor League, Little League, Senior Little League, what we call the “Teener League” (VFW), and girls’ softball, are located beside Mahoning Creek.

Each ball field is named for someone local. Some honor those who have devoted much of their time to maintain and improve the fields and the league. Two fields are named as memorials.

The Little League field is called the “Billy Titus Memorial Field,” named after a Punxsutawney Little Leaguer who was killed in a farming accident.

The VFW League field, the Rich Kuntz Memorial Field, is named for SP4 Richard Lorraine Kuntz, who was killed in action in Vietnam on February 5, 1968, six weeks before his twenty-first birthday.

My grandson once asked me, “Who was Rich Kuntz? Why is the field named after him?” Since I’ve spent half a lifetime at the fields and know the stories behind the names, I was able to tell him. But it got me wondering: How many people drive right by those signs or even say the name of the ball field and don’t realize the significance?

Memorials are built and named so we won’t forget, so those who come after will learn of the sacrifice of the Vietnam soldier, the love a little leaguer who never got to play Senior League had for the game.

This weekend we observe Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor and remember our military men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.

Some died in action, some went missing in action and never were found, some died a slow death after they came home and tried to resume a normal life. Some are still alive, but they will never be the same.

Sadly, these holidays that are set aside to remember and honor those who have stepped to the plate for our country are too often perceived as simply a day off work, to relax, catch up on things, feast and frolic.

While there’s nothing wrong with any of those activities, let us not forget to remember why we observe Memorial Day.

On the way to the baseball complex, there’s a grassy field beside the road that’s covered with U.S. flags. Each time I passed it last week, more flags waved in the breeze. Thursday, I slowed down to read the sign. Passersby are invited to place a free flag there in honor of a veteran.

20160527_122629

I didn’t have time to stop. But you know what? As soon as I finished writing my column on Friday, I drove to that field and placed three flags: in honor of my husband (U.S. Marine Corps, 1968–1972), my father (U.S. Army, World War II), and my father-in-law (U.S. Navy, World War II). It was the least I could do.

What about you? What are you doing to remember this Memorial Day?

Thank you, Lord, for those who gave themselves to serve, protect, and defend our country. Let us never forget the sacrifices they made. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Joshua 4