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Veterans Day

PoppyNinety years ago at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the guns fell silent. The Great War, The War to End All Wars, was over…for a couple of decades.

The red poppies of Flanders fields became a symbol of that war and the veterans that returned from it. Known as Remembrance Day in much of the world, the poppies will be in evidence. Remembrance Day observances have more in common with the American Memorial Day as day to honor those who have died in war.

First called Armistice Day in the United States, the name was changed to Veterans Day, and its purpose changed to honoring those who are serving, or have served in the military. The change was made to avoid a conflict with the existing Memorial Day observance that goes back to the Civil War era.

A heart felt salute to everyone who managed to survive basic training. We can hope that sooner, rather than later, there will be no need for another generation to put on uniforms.

13 comments

1 Kryten42 { 11.11.08 at 2:19 am }

Yes. Here it’s still known as ‘Remembrance Day’ (or commonly, Poppy Day).

The red Flanders’ poppy was first described as a flower of remembrance by Colonel John McCrae, who was Professor of Medicine at McGill University of Canada before World War One. Colonel McCrae had served as a gunner in the Boer War, but went to France in World War One as a medical Officer with the first Canadian Contingent.

At the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first-aid post, he wrote in pencil on a page torn from his despatch book:

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.

The verses were apparently sent anonymously to the English magazine, Punch, which published them under the title, In Flanders’ Fields. Colonel McCrae died while on active duty in May 1918. On the eve of his death he allegedly said to his doctor, “Tell them this. If ye break the faith with us who die we shall not sleep”. His volume of poetry, In Flanders’ Fields and Other Poems, was published in 1919.

An American, Miss Moira Michael, read In Flanders’ Fields and wrote a reply entitled We Shall Keep the Faith:

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders’ fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew,
We caught the torch you threw,
And holding high we kept
The faith with those who died.
We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valour led.

It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders’ fields.

And now the torch and poppy red
Wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught
We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders’ fields.

Rest in Peace all those who fell in all the battles, in all the wars. I was there. I will always remember.

2 jams O'Donnell { 11.11.08 at 3:17 am }

I hope so too Bryan.

3 Lab Kat { 11.11.08 at 10:35 am }

Thanks. I always wondered what the poppies were for.

4 Bryan { 11.11.08 at 11:37 am }

The verse is traditional, but I have always been bothered by the concept of continuing to fight just because troops have been lost. There are times when stopping the war is a better alternative.

I’m also bothered by the fact that leaders who lose wars get replaced, but nothing ever seems to happen to the leaders who lose the peace.

5 cookie jill { 11.11.08 at 8:57 pm }

I honor your service to our country, Bryan…and to blogtopia!

Thank you.

6 Frederick { 11.11.08 at 9:03 pm }

Right back at you, my fellow vet.

7 Story of the Day { 11.11.08 at 9:39 pm }

[…] Why Now?: Veterans Day […]

8 Bryan { 11.11.08 at 9:41 pm }

Thank you, Jill.

At least the worst I had to deal with was Nixon and Kissinger, Frederick. Our general officers tended to be pros with any a few exceptions, while you’re stuck with a political officer corps.

I have nothing but respect for the men and women who have to serve on current conditions, because politics within the military was not something we had to worry about – it really was never a topic of discussion, nor was religion.

9 Comrade Kevin { 11.12.08 at 8:21 am }

As a Quaker, I am officially against armed combat and war as an institution, so I have deeply ambivalent feelings on Armistice/Veteran’s Day. Maybe someday soon we’ll put war aside, but I have a feeling it won’t be within my lifetime.

10 Bryan { 11.12.08 at 12:33 pm }

It might surprise you Kevin, but a real war zone is an excellent environment for the creation of atheists and pacifists. It is an intense reality that cannot be ignored and it will change people forever.

If properly trained and led, the military can prevent wars. Unfortunately, in the US the people at the top are elected and the military is dependent on the voters making rational decisions, which is rare and discouraged by the politicians.

The Strategic Air Command wasn’t being ironic with its motto “Peace is our Profession” and it worked throughout the Cold War period. Mutually Assured Destruction wasn’t exactly a sane concept, but it did function as advertised.

It is difficult for people to understand, but the professional soldier is the hardest to convince that a war is necessary because he/she knows on a personal level what wars really cost. The metal shipping containers covered with flags are not symbols to a veteran, they are people.

11 Kryten42 { 11.12.08 at 6:06 pm }

Very true Bryan. Well said.

12 Kryten42 { 11.12.08 at 6:16 pm }

Curiously, this was just posted at C&L:

I look for Petraeus to eventually quit the Obama administration

13 Bryan { 11.12.08 at 7:51 pm }

Petraeus is, was, and always will be a political officer. His advancement was predicated on advocating for the policies that the political powers wanted to implement. His “innovation” was rehashing what we had learned the hard way in Southeast Asia, but it was really too late for them to have a lot of effect on the ground.

He’ll retire because there is no place for him to go. He has four stars and there are no slots open for him after Centcom. He isn’t going to the Joint Chiefs, so he may as well retire.