Decoration Day, 1914

The following editorial appeared a hundred years ago, in the Arizona Republican of May 24, 1914.  In just a few years, there would be many more graves of those who gave their lives for their country.  But we are reminded that the sacrifices of the heroes are not diminished by honoring as well the least among us.

The Potters’ Field

We print this morning a protest presented by members of the Women’s Relief Corps against the purpose to strew flowers on the graves of the Potters’ Field on Decoration Day. We cannot think that the memory of the heroic dead, whose memory we are accustomed to revere on  Memorial Day, would be dishonored by such an act. Nothing would be detracted from the observance of our duty to them. In placing flowers indiscriminately upon the lowly graves of the unknown dead, we should be acting as proxy for many a mother, wife, sister or daughter who does not know where her dead lies, or, knowing, could not perform that office herself.

Decoration Day is made the occasion in ail cemeteries for laying wreaths upon the graves of loved ones, who may not have laid down or offered their lives for their country. If you go into any cemetery in the land next Saturday, you will find little graves covered with flowers. You will find the graves of mothers decorated by loving hands.  You will find remembrances upon the graves of many who were born and have died since the war.

No one would raise a protest against such an expression of love on Decoration Day or any other day. Would we place a stigma instead of flowers upon the graves of those who lie in the Potters’ Field because they died friendless and penniless?

There are among us all. and there must be among these protestants against the decoration of the Potters’ Field, those who believe that there is a life beyond the grave; that there is a heaven not barred  against the souls of those whose only crime was that their bodies found sepulture in a Potters’ Field. Surely, we would not dishonor by scorn the graves of such as these.

There are desecrations of Decoration Day in protests against which we would join. We would protest against the custom of making the day a date for prize fights, and we would protest against turning from the solemnity of the Memorial Day services to merry-making in which is forgotten the purpose of the day, the annual renewal of our loyalty
to the country and our sense of gratitude to those who offered their lives for it.

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