This is quite a poignant photo; the War had ended just 18 months earlier and America had lost 116,000 servicemen—53,000 in combat and 63,000 from disease and influenza. These tragic losses were marked during this Memorial Day ceremony in Suresnes American Cemetery just outside Paris. If you enlarge the image by clicking on it twice, you will become immersed in a very solemn scene.
The circling year again brings round
This proud Memorial Day,
With mingled joy and grief profound,
We deck with wreaths the sacred mound,
Where patriot soldiers lay.
Tis meet that we this honor show,
And pledge this day anew,
Our fadeless faith, that all may know
How strong this faith will ever grow,
In loyal hearts and true.
Our land so broad, so grand, so free,
Pays homage to the band,
Who fought and bled, and died that we
An undivided nation be,
The peer of any land.
Pile granite to the vaulted skies;
Carve words of deathless fame;
Let marble monuments arise
Where’er the soldier-patriot lies,
In honor of his name.
The granite pile may sink to dust,
No more its words be read ;
The marble may forsake its trust;
The nation may, in reckless lust,
Forget the honored dead.
Their fame is fixed beyond the skies,
Their glory is of God ;
Twas not ambition’s sacrifice,
Nor eager gain for worldly prize,
That laid them ‘neath the sod.
They died our nation’s life to save,
Ere it were rent in twain,
For this each fills a soldier’s grave,
For this the glorious flag shall wave,
In honor of the slain.
They died : the clanking shackles fell
From bondman’s fettered hand,
And angels winged their way to tell,
While heavenly choirs the anthem swell,
Of freedom’s happy land.
Z. F. Riley*
*From Holiday Selections for Readings and Recitation compiled by Sarah Sigourney Rice (Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1920, pp. 187-188)
Suresnes American Cemetery – American Battle Monuments Commission