Honoring the Dead in Flanders Field

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Armistice Day, Veterans' Day, Remembrance Day

Ask, and our elders will tell us about the many wars they remember. War stories go far beyond the battlefield and right into the Victory Garden in the yard. You will learn about rubber drives and war bonds, the scarcity of food and nylons, and stories of wedding dresses made from parachutes. Be prepared with tissues, for you will go from tearing up with compassion to tearing up from laughter. You'll see pride in their eyes, honor in their hearts, and the sometimes somber tales of the contradiction between sacrifice and freedom.

Though some just enjoy the holiday from work, many pause at 11:00 a.m. each November 11 for two minutes of silence, calling to mind those who died in service to their countries during that first world war and all wars that followed. Hostilities on the Western Front ceased at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918 when the Armistice concluded between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany—signed in Marshal Foch's special train at Rethondes station in the forest of Compiegne.

Though known by several names, my favorite November 11 reference is Remembrance Day as used by the Canadians. Citizens can be found wearing bright red paper poppies on their lapels as a remembrance of those who perished in service to their country.

The poppies were adopted after John McCrae wrote a poem in 1915 titled, "In Flanders Fields." Major John McCrae was serving as a military doctor and was second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery near Ypres, Belgium. It is believed that the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, prompted the poem. Helmer was buried in Flanders, where vivid red poppies sprang up everywhere among the graves at the burial grounds.

Let us join across borders as we honor, remember, and pause in gratitude for the sacrifice of so very many people who lived and died before us as veterans. Keep the faith; take up their torch for freedom and hold it high.

In Flanders Field

- by John McCrae

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.