645,000 poppies on display on the National Mall for Memorial Day

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and people across the country are enjoying the day off with a barbecue or parade. But a new, temporary memorial in our nation’s capital is colorfully reminding Americans what this day is really all about.

John Bird says he hopes to take this memorial to other locations around the country.

645,000 poppies are lining a wall on the National Mall in Washington. Each one represents a service member who has died since World War I.

“You begin to get a sense of the true cost of our freedom,” said Florida native Mark Leaf, who served in the Navy and Army Reserve.

Some of the poppies on the wall represent his friends. This weekend is important to Leaf and he wants every American to recognize the true meaning of the holiday.

“We need to understand that fully and give thanks to God and humble ourselves before these numbers,” said Leaf.

USAA in conjunction with the National Park Service planted the 133-foot long poppy memorial in prime real estate on the National Mall. It served as a history lesson for some and a reflective eye-opener for others.

“(There is) a little sorrow in the fact that we’ve lost so many men and women in combat,” said Vice Admiral John Bird senior vice president of military affairs for USAA.

The two-sided wall has the history of the poppy symbol on one side. The other side is simply a flower-filled, head-turner for those strolling on the mall.

“Simple but elegant,” said Bird.

The temporary memorial was shipped to Washington from San Antonio, Texas. Bird says in the future, USAA hopes to bring the memorial to other locations across the country.

Read the original version of this article at www.graydc.com.