Back to Jerry's essay. He described an encounter with an elderly veteran selling red buddy poppies in front of a supermarket. His poignant essay was also a tribute to those who have died in any war or who've came back from war broken, damaged, or changed.
Jerry spoke of the history of the buddy poppies after World War I, "the war to end all wars," and wove in the poem "In Flander's Field," written by Col. John McCrae of Canada. The poem describes blowing red fields among the battleground of the fallen.
In Flander's Field
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.
On this Memorial Day I remember young men from my youth who, in the words of President Lincoln during the Gettysburg Address, gave their "last measure of devotion," fighting for their country. From the City of St. Louis, Missouri, the names of 260 men are on the walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Here are four I knew:
James Donnelly, a classmate at Most Holy Name of Jesus School in North St. Louis, Missouri, was a shy, smart, and handsome boy with dark hair and dark eyes. He took me to Holy Name's eighth grade dance in 1962 on the steamship Admiral on the Mississippi River. Jim gave me my first corsage. He died in 1968 as an Army soldier in Vietnam.
William June was also a classmate at Holy Name and grew up in our North St. Louis neighborhood.
Ron Imperiali, a friend of my sister Kathleen, grew up in our North St. Louis neighborhood.
Michael Blassie was my date for the St. Alphonsus (Rock) senior prom in 1966. He went on to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy and was sent to Vietnam. In 1972 he was declared MIA then KIA after his plane was shot down. His remains were buried for several years in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier until DNA proved the remains were his. His remains were returned home for burial in 1998. My husband Walt (also an Air Force Vietnam veteran) and I attended the ceremony at Jefferson Barracks.
Eternal rest grant them, Oh Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them.