Eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month… the guns were finally silent after years of brutal trench warfare. Untold millions of souls lost and most of western Europe in tatters. The results of these events still echo though the world today. This is where our Veterans Day comes from. As a student of military history, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of the whole Veteran’s Day thing. Boy, was I wrong…

I was pondering what to write about this month and surprised myself by deciding to write about poetry… Really? Yep… it ties in. LTC. John McCrae a Canadian surgeon wrote “In Flanders Fields” in 1915 after the death of a friend in the second battle of Ypres. Three years later it was read by Moina Michael and she immediately penned “We Shall Keep the Faith.” First time I had ever heard of this poem.

Between these two poems and Moina Michael's untiring work, red poppies have become a truly international symbol of remembrance, honoring all that have given their lives in combat. The more I read, the more I learned. Such as, Mrs. Michael was instrumental in the American Legion's poppy program to raise funds to aid wounded veterans returning from the war. Even today, the VFW and American Legion are out in force before Memorial Day with poppies. They are raising funds to help local veterans and their families in times of need. Scores of other military organizations, all over the world, use red poppies as a symbol of remembrance for the fallen.

Thought I would include both of these poems here for you to read.

In Flanders Fields

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.

WE SHALL KEEP THE FAITH

Monia Michael

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet – to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a luster to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields.

Unfortunately, I’ve read about some groups that want to bring politics into this by trying to add a “whatever” color poppy for “whatever” group. They feel that the red poppies are not inclusive enough. I don’t know how death on a battlefield can exclude anyone, no matter who they are. Red poppies honor ALL who gave their lives regardless of race, religion, gender etc., etc. When the hand of death reaches out, we are all equal. I would ask that we try to not add politics in to honoring our dead. Somethings are better off just as they are.

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