Red poppies near Lincoln Memorial mark sacrifices of American service members

On the southwest side of the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial, nestled beneath a stand of trees, a temporary wood and plastic wall-exhibit reminds visitors of the high cost of freedom — the sacrifice of 645,000 American service members.

The Poppy Wall of Honor is a two-sided wall about 130 feet long and 8 and 1/2 feet tall. One side of the wall is chock full of red poppies, each representing a life lost in combat in service to the United States. The other side of the wall details, panel by panel, the casualties in each United States conflict since World War I.

Visitors learn of John McCrae, the Canadian poet and soldier whose poem “In Flanders Fields,” forever made the small red poppy flower as a memoriam to America’s war dead.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place …”

The exhibit is sponsored by financial services company USAA as a tribute to the nation’s war dead.

“We can never thank them enough. We can never pay the debt of gratitude but what we can do is never forget. Memorial Day is all about that, it’s one of our most sacred holidays,” said retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. John Bird, senior vice president, military affairs at USAA.

Many visitors seem touched by the somber, but colorful and informative wall exhibit.

“Immediately when I walked in I got goose bumps,” said Angelina Ulmer, 16, of Amherst, Massachusetts. “It was absolutely beautiful.”

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