As our American History continues to unfurl there is an inspiring fact that must never be forgotten. It is a reality that should be remembered more than once a year, and it is a privilege to be honored every minute and every second the two words United States stand undivided. As we go about our business and live our daily lives we should always remember that freedom is not free.
As springtime spreads across Southwest Florida and as the orange blooms of the royal poinciana and the purple jacaranda usher in a change of seasons for Marco Island it can serve as a reminder of just how delicate the blooms of a flower can be. The yearly fanfares of color can also symbolize the fragile nature of life and the quiet determination of heroes.
The origins of Memorial Day in the United States have flourished across the nation like the wildflowers in springtime, but the beginning of Decoration Day or the day to honor those that have fallen in battle seem to have started with one of the most horrific episodes in American history. The Civil War was like no other war in our history because this was a fight to defend freedom within our own boundaries.
In the early days of the 1860s, there was a way of life to be defended, and a very strong belief that the southern way of life and slavery was very wrong. There never was a war were families were so divided and forced to choose between blue and gray, and there never has been an atrocity so devastating that it threatened to tear our nation apart.
When that terrible conflict was over, and slavery was abolished, a new age began for the home of the brave and the land of the free, but there were challenges ahead for the survivors, and a storm of emotions that had to be reconciled.
Three years after the War Between the States was over, there was, as there ever will be, a group of Southern ladies that truly were Steel Magnolias. These were women from all ages and after the south and specifically Mississippi finally began to realize there was a springtime after the winter of war, there was also an understanding that something had to be done to honor the fallen soldiers that had given everything to defend their homeland.
Springtime often comes early in Mississippi and as the wildflowers began to bloom and color the countryside the lonely women of the south began to gather those flowers and decorate the graves of their husbands, sons, grandsons, and long lost sweethearts.
There were very few men alive after the terrible storm of aggression was past, and as those southern and steadfast Mississippi Magnolias dressed in their Sunday best walked away from church, they began to gather wildflowers and decorate the graves that were so near the battlefield of Shiloh.
The boys, the men, and the brothers that died together on that infamous battlefield had been separated in burial as the thought of interning the southerners that fought to defend the homeland in the same graveyard as the northern aggressors was too much to bear.
During the late afternoon, during one of the very first Memorial Days, when the confederate graves were decorated and honored with flowers, the very same Southern Belles of from the heart of Mississippi could not accept the thought of the fallen Yankee boys without someone to honor them. The graves of the union soldiers looked too forlorn and too lonely.
One by one the gracious southern ladies ranged out again and slowly but surely, began to decorate the graves of their once enemy with the abundant wildflowers so prominent in the unplowed fields. The tradition caught on and spread from town to town in the wonderful tradition of nurturing women everywhere.
This story becomes even more precious when the realization comes home again and again, that these true Steel Magnolias; these mothers, daughters, and long lost sweethearts were mostly all alone and fending for themselves as the majority of American men were lying in their graves and resting in the hallowed ground where an American tradition began so long ago, in two separate graveyards divided by color.
When any American answers the call to arms and willingly places themselves in harm’s way, no greater price can be paid than that of the ultimate sacrifice. Well over a million fallen Americans have paid for the freedom that we all enjoy every day. These are Americans that stood up when the call to battle came and gave their lives so that the dark and wicked nature of tyranny can never hide and cover the light of freedom.