The Dutton Memorial Day service planned to take place in the town’s cemetery was moved to the Dutton American Legion Hall due to rain, but that didn’t stop approximately 50 citizens from coming out and honoring the fallen.
The ceremony began with the Dutton Legion honor guard presenting the flags. Montana Rep. Ross Fitzgerald then served as emcee, reminding listeners of the national American Legion’s 100th birthday this year and addressing the significance of Monday’s event by saying, “This day is sacred with the almost visible presence of those gone before us.”
Pastor Natalie Fulton of Bethany Lutheran Church then described the history of the poppy and how it became a symbol of mourning and military patriotism.
“In May of 1915, John McCrae penned a poem after presiding over a military funeral service, after the pastor was called up on duty,” explained Fulton. “I would like to read the poem here today: ‘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.’”
Flanders Fields is a cemetery in Belgium. McCrae fought in the Second Battle of Ypres in the Flanders region when the German army launched one of the first chlorine gas attacks in World War I.
“One woman, Moina Michael, was so inspired by McCrae’s poem that she wrote her own poem as a response, titled ‘We Shall Keep the Faith.’ … She wore a poppy every day from then on, and helped procure poppies for others. Eventually, there weren’t enough poppies for all those who wanted one, so she began the tradition of making fabric poppies,” continued Fulton. “It doesn’t cost a lot to show honor to those who paid the greatest sacrifice.”
The program closed with Fulton and music teacher Luke Juras leading the crowd in singing the national anthem, and then Juras playing “Taps” on trumpet. Dutton American Legion Chaplain Frank Schoonover gave the benediction prayer, and the crowd was released to enjoy the burgers, hot dogs and sides prepared by various community volunteers. Artificial poppies were sold for a freewill donation at the door as people left the building.