The sun finally emerged Monday after three days of hard rain, and it was heartening to see crowds at events across the North Fork honoring members of the military who lost their lives in America’s wars.
The sun shining down on events from Calverton National Cemetery to Orient and Shelter Island also seemed to welcome us all back after the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when our lives were so shuttered and masked.
To see people happily lined up along Main Road in Southold for the return of the Memorial Day parade — which was canceled last year — and gathering afterward outside the American Legion post, was a great way to honor the holiday and those who served and died. Some folks walked over to the Civil War monument on the corner, which the lists of names of local men involved in that conflict.
There is no place in our region, however, where service to country is more honored than at Calverton National Cemetery, a place of hallowed ground with more than 275,000 gravesites.
On Monday, area Boy Scouts continued their long tradition of placing American flags next to gravestones. This is one of the best traditions of this unique American holiday, and a solemn and important way for the Scouts to understand what service to a country fully entails.
Memorial Day and all that goes with it is also the unofficial beginning of the summer season. But before we all celebrate the coming of hot days and afternoons at a favorite beach, let’s read the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915 by John McCrae, a Canadian soldier-physician, after his friend and fellow soldier was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium.
This poem has lasted, and rightly so, over the generations and speaks to gravesites across America and Europe where those who served and died are buried.
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.