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Memorial Day 2010

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POSTED: May 20, 2010 9:13 a.m.
I know everyone has seen the VFW or American Legion Auxiliary ladies selling the Memorial Day poppies at various locations.
The poppies are crepe paper replicas of the poppies which grow wild in Belgium in a place that has one of the American cemeteries from WWI. Many may remember the poem from high school, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row.”
There was a terrible battle and 368 American WWI soldiers are buried there. Flanders is the smallest of American military cemeteries and there are 24 overseas cemeteries scattered among the battlefields around the world. There are almost 125,000 of our military heroes buried in them.
The USS Indianapolis was returning from Tinian Island after having delivered the atomic bombs used against Japan to end WWII when she was torpedoed and sank by a Japanese sub. More than 900 of the crew were lost. The ship has never been found. The USS Arizona was bombed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked the U.S. to start our involvement in WWII. Over 1,100 U.S. sailors were lost and are still interned there on that ship alone. Maybe both these sunken ships should be thought of as national cemeteries.
My wife and I have been to the Pearl Harbor USS Arizona Memorial twice, Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC and to the Normandy D Day invasion cemetery in France. They are all meticulously maintained and solemn places to visit. While at the Normandy cemetery, we visited the grave of an uncle of an old Navy shipmate of mine who was killed the day of the invasion. A very nice French guide at the cemetery took us to his gravesite, rubbed wet sand (from Omaha beach which appears gold in photos) into the lettering on the cross so we could take pictures for his family and gave us a tour of the grounds. The shrubbery, grass, etc. were manicured and the view of the Atlantic Ocean and Omaha Beach were sobering and majestic. The day we were there a French Girl Scout troop placed a wreath at the memorial reflecting pool. The Jewish Star of David is also present for some of the 9,300  buried there. After the end of WWII families of those buried there were given the choice of leaving their loved ones interned there or returned stateside for reburial; over 11,000 were returned home. Inside the chapel is inscribed, “I give them eternal life and they will never perish.”
In 2010, the American Legion will deliver, free of charge, 20,000 new U.S. flags to be placed on the graves of those who died while serving in military operations overseas. The local American Legion Post, The Ladies Auxiliary, and the Flag Committee (and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Quattlebaum), will again place the memorial flags at the local cemeteries on May 22. The Ladies American Legion Auxiliary and the Flag Committee will have the flag dedication at the downtown park on May 29, 2010 at 10 a.m.

Clark is retired Navy and lives in Pembroke, where he is active in veteran's affairs as a member of American Legion Post 164.
 

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