Our True Colors…

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A patriotic display at the 3 French Hens French Country Market, along the banks of the historic Illinois & Michigan Shipping Canal.

Hi Friends,

We are celebrating Memorial Day weekend across our country… and our colors are showing! Americans always think of this weekend as the unofficial start of summer. Our hot, humid, rainy days in the Midwest suddenly do feel like summertime!

The delicate blossoms of Cranesbill Geranium, Lilies of the Valley, Daisies, Allium, and Spirea add color to the garden in mid to late May.

The delicate blossoms of Cranesbill Geranium, Lily of the Valley, Daisies, Allium, and Spirea add color to the garden in mid to late May.

Our perennial and herb gardens are flourishing with all of our recent rains. This week, our Friendship Garden bed is just beginning to show its lovely Springtime colors as pale, pink Peonies, light purple Iris, and deep purple Siberian Iris bloom in abundance. Clematis vines fill the arbor with fuchsia and purple blossoms. Springtime color is everywhere!

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Yesterday I gathered Peony, Daisy,  Anemone, and Ajuga blossoms to fill a festive vase. The small, red, silk poppy was made by veterans in our veterans’ hospitals.

In honor of Memorial Day, our true colors are the most important ones on display everywhere. Our flag on the front porch is blowing in the warm, May breezes. Pots of geraniums are all abloom with tiny flags, too.  Small red, white, and blue bunting hangs across the archway in our dining room. A white, stoneware pitcher is filled with a collection of American flags.

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Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, in Elwood, Illinois.

Last week, when I drove into the grocery store parking lot, I noticed an elderly man, sitting quietly near the door. He proudly wore his VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) uniform and held a big bunch of red, silk poppies. As shoppers exited, he greeted them and collected donations for our veterans. Of course, I couldn’t wait. With my donation in hand, I walked right over to thank him for his service, made my donation, and accepted the red, silk poppy with so much gratitude. When I asked where he served, he named several battlefields in Korea. I told him that my dad also served in Korea, and that I recognized some of the same battlefields from my dad’s stories and carefully documented Army scrapbook. He kindly asked me to thank my dad for his service, too… and I promised that I would. Later, as I packed all of the ingredients for our Memorial Day celebration into my car, I knew that the most important thing I brought home that day was the small, red, silk poppy.

The simple tradition of wearing a silk poppy pinned to the lapel dates back to 1918. Inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” by Canadian poet John McCree, the red poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. We show our true colors when we observe this special ritual over Memorial Day weekend.

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During visits to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, prayers for peace and quiet gratitude, for the sacrifices made by these men and women whose lives were lost in service to our country, always bring tears to my eyes.

One of the most important ways that we can show our true colors is to help our children, grandchildren, and students understand the significance of Memorial Day. Hopefully, during their lifetimes, a day will come when we no longer have to send Americans into harm’s way. When my sweet neighbor, Karla, comes to visit, she always notices the flag that hangs on our front porch from May through November. Sometimes we talk together about why we display our flag and what it means. Now that she is seven years old, Karla is just beginning to understand our true colors.

On Memorial Day, the flag is raised quickly to the top of the staff, then slowly lowered to the half-staff position, to remember the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.  At noon, the flag is raised to full-staff for the remainder of Memorial Day. This ritual of remembrance helps remind us not to let their sacrifices be in vain and calls upon us all to continue to work for liberty and justice for all.

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The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial, in Marseilles, Illinois, is the first memorial of its kind, honoring our fallen by name, while the conflict is still going on. Since 1979, every year right after Memorial Day, the names of servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives over the past year are etched into the granite of the Wall.

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… and so many other brave men and women who made the the ultimate sacrifice.

Remembering those who gave their lives in the Middle East.

Remembering those servicemen and women who gave their lives in the Middle East.

We all share the hope that no more names will be etched on The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in the years to come…

Bundles of letters sent home during World War II

A vendor at an antique fair told us recently how she found this collection of letters written during World War II. These bundles of letters document the lives of men and women in service to our country. It would be so interesting to read the stories these letters hold.

In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking Americans to stop and remember, at 3:00pm on Memorial Day.  As we pause to remember, it’s so important to remember the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. While volunteering to help our military families, I was fortunate to hear the stories of mothers, wives, and sisters whose loved ones are currently serving in the Marines. Today we are fortunate to have email and Skype to keep families close during military deployment. While volunteering with Operation Write Home, I learned just how important it is for families at home to receive a letter or card from their hero, written by hand from the heart. My mom still treasures the letters that she received from my dad while he was serving in Korea. Their cherished bundle of letters, still tied with a ribbon, is such a tangible reminder of the sacrifice that so many families make in service to our country. Military families continue to experience the ultimate sacrifice, as precious lives are lost or changed forever. Our military families show their true colors every day!

 

How will you celebrate Memorial Day this year?

Do you have any special Memorial Day traditions?

This Memorial Day we are adding an extra-special event to our Memorial Day weekend. My parents are here visiting from Arizona. Today we are having a very special family gathering to celebrate my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary!! ♡ What a blessing to celebrate this special day with both of them!! We will share their memories of their wedding day, planned while my dad was away serving in the Army. Luckily, Dad was granted a very short leave and arrived home on the day before his wedding! He moved his new bride across the country, to live near the military base. Before long, my mom had to carry on bravely at home, as her new husband shipped off to serve our country in war. Such a heartwarming story of true colors and true love! ♡♡

Cherish the day!

♡Dawn

 

Red, White & Blue ~ Traditions Old & New

Red, white & blue is everywhere!

Red, white & blue are popping up everywhere!

Hi Friends,

Everywhere you look, there are displays of red, white & blue! From sea to shining sea, we are getting ready for Memorial Day weekend. In the midst of celebrations of warm, summer-like days, the end of another school year, cookouts, and baseball games, I hope you can find a peaceful, quiet moment to reflect on the importance of Memorial Day and the great sacrifices made for our freedom.

 

Last summer, while antiquing our way through the little towns nestled along the Illinois River, we unexpectedly came upon The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial, in Marseilles, Illinois. This memorial is the first of its kind, honoring our fallen by name, while the conflict is still going on.  Since 1979, every year right after Memorial Day, the names of servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives over the past year are etched into the granite of the Wall. We took a long time to walk along the wall, very quietly and with great sadness.

Remembering those who gave their lives in the Middle East.

Remembering those who gave their lives in the Middle East.

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Reflecting… and remembering.

Honoring a local hero, Christopher Alcozer.

Honoring a local hero, Christopher Alcozer.

… and so many other brave men and women who made the the ultimate sacrifice.

… and so many other brave men and women who made the the ultimate sacrifice.

 

We all share the hope that no more names will be etched on The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in the years to come…

 

 

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Red, White & Blue ~ Traditions Old & New

Old Memorial Day traditions are celebrated all across America.  Our town is looking forward to our 96th annual Memorial Day parade, followed by a special ceremony at the Veterans’ Memorial in the park. Young and old will gather for the red, white, & blue celebration.

My favorite author and artist, Susan Branch, shared her very special Memorial Day traditions on Martha’s Vineyard, in Massachusetts. You will love this wonderful, old, island tradition!  Such a simple act of Remembrance that tugs on our heartstrings, in Susan’s own words…

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It’s always nice to add some new traditions to our holiday celebrations, as well. Wouldn’t this be a great time to let our servicemen and women, who are currently deployed, know how much we appreciate their service? It’s such an easy thing to do ~ and it feels really good, too! Writing Any Hero Mail for Operation Write Home (OWH) would be the perfect new tradition…

Who can write Any Hero mail?  You might like to use up some cards or note paper, by writing letters on your own. Family gatherings, community festivals, summer art camp, and classroom or school-wide projects are an easy way to introduce a new tradition to larger groups. The Operation Write Home website has tips for writing letters, coloring pages for children’s letters, and the mailing address for your cards and letters.

How does it work?  Just find a piece of writing paper, a card, or a postcard, and write a short Any Hero letter! Tell them about the town where you live, your pets, a funny story,… just let them know that you are thinking of them and are grateful for their service for our country.

What happens with the cards and letters you write?  Packets of Any Hero Mail are included in each box of handmade cards created by OWH volunteers. The heroes use our handmade cards to write letters home to their family and friends. Your Any Hero Mail will be placed at the top of each box of OWH cards and given to deployed heroes who do not receive mail. (Can you believe that many of our service members never receive mail while they are deployed?) You will make their day and let them know that the hard work they are doing is appreciated. Our troops are still out there, doing their jobs every day. They should know that we are thinking of them!

 

Over the years, our brave family heroes have served our country: my dad (Korea), my father-in-law (WWII), my uncle (VietNam), and our cousin (Iraq, Afghanistan). We have been so fortunate that all of  the veterans in our family have come home safely. Yet memories of family stories of loved ones serving in harm’s way, old  black and white war photos, and packets of love letters tied with ribbons have left a profound mark on my heart.

As I planned for my retirement, my thoughts turned to finding new ways to “make a difference.”  So I searched for small ways to help those who sacrifice so much every single day ~ our military families.  Over the past year, as a volunteer with the Semper Fi Family Platoon, I have met amazing mothers of young Marines. Their sons and daughters left soon after high school graduation for training. Many are now deployed and are proudly serving our country.  As the moms talk, I learn more and more about the ways  the entire family sacrifices when a loved one is serving in the military. Our group of card makers has been making cards for hospitalized Marines to let them know they are not forgotten.

I am also slowly filling a box with special handmade cards for Operation Write Home.  These cards are blank inside, so that our heroes can use them to keep in touch with their families. OWH cards end up in family scrapbooks, on mantels, and tucked under the pillows of children whose parents are deployed. It takes me a long time to make the best cards possible…  and they deserve our best! Such small things I do, for those who do so much…

Thanks for spending a little time thinking about some old and new holiday traditions today. Hope you’ll stop by again in a day or so!  Our Friendship Garden is just about to burst into bloom…

Happy Memorial Day!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  How will you celebrate Memorial Day weekend?