Respect for veterans and our flag

Kelly Hopkins - Contributing columnist

As the 155th Memorial Day approaches and events are being continued and/or cancelled due to the pandemic, I would like to say a few words about this important day to our community.

I have written about Memorial Day several times before, but I do believe it needs to revisited and taught to our younger citizens.

First, let’s talk about the confusion between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Memorial Day, which is held on the final Monday of May each year, is a day of remembering the citizens of this republic who have perished while serving this country in the military.

Veterans Day is the day we celebrate the military service of all veterans, which is held on November 11th each year. Memorial Day was first named “Decoration Day”, then changed to “Memorial Day” in 1882.

Second, on Memorial Day we decorate the graves of our war dead with flowers and flags to show our respect and honor to our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much for our nation. We also raise the United States flag quickly or briskly to the top of the staff and then slowly or solemnly lower the flag to the half-staff position.

Our great flag remains at half-staff until noon, at which time our flag is raised back to full-staff for the remainder of the day. This is also to show our respect to our fellow Americans that have again sacrificed so much for us.

We should also be looking at our flags. If the flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, the flag should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

Thus, when a flag is torn and tattered beyond repair, it’s time for it to be retired. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6710, Wilmington American Legion Post 49 and Blanchester Legion Post 179 have Retired Flag Boxes. Flags can be dropped off at any time of the year at no cost.

These organizations also perform the United States Flag Retirement Ceremony a few times a year. The main flag retirement ceremonies are usually conducted on June 14th each year on our National Flag Day or, to us soldiers, the U.S. Army Birthday.

On Memorial Day, we also wear the poppy.” This small red flower was brought to our attention by a poem, “In Flanders Fields” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915. The poem’s opening lines refer to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldiers’ graves in Flanders.

So, we wear this “poppy” to show that we remember their sacrifice as well. The proper way to wear a poppy is to wear it on their right side; the red represents the blood of all those who gave their lives, the black represents the mourning of those who didn’t have their loved ones return home, and the green leaf represents the grass and crops growing and future prosperity after the war destroyed so much.

The leaf should be positioned at 11 o’clock to represent the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time the World War I formally ended.

It is the duty of each and every veteran to relay this message that sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance to our fellow citizens. It is the duty of each citizen to be aware of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime.

So, again we must remember and show homage and our appreciation. As Calvin Coolidge stated, “The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.”

I would also like to remind individuals of a quote by President George Washington, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country.”

Kelly Hopkins is the Past All-State Post Commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6710, and currently the Chief Criminal Bailiff of the Clinton County Common Pleas Court.

Kelly Hopkins

Contributing columnist