In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army
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
My generation of Canadians may be the last who had to learn to recite the above poem in school as part of our education. I finds this sad, as sad as the aged Veterans just now at the end of their lives willing to share the horrors that traumatized them as they struggle to visit the countless graves of their comrades , long passed but not forgoten, scattered over Europe. Our cultural memory will continue to fade. This poem for me is a full expression of the day and I am glad I can still recite it.
Today is Armistice Day. It celebrates the end of the Great War, "the war to end all wars" in 1918. On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11 hour the war officially came to an end. I prefer to remember this day for this event for their is an irony in it for us all. It did not end war. Some would even say it set the wheels in motion for WWII.
In Canada, we could not leave this holiday alone so it is now celebrated as Remembrance Day, a day to remember those who died in the two World wars and other military misadventures, including our present involvement in Afghanistan.
Our attention today is focused on individual soldiers and their lives lost answering the call of their country in war. They certainly deserve our respect but their deaths are also a judgement on the rest of us. Where the wars justified? Did we do all we could to avoid war and build a lasting peace? We should remember these nagging questions , as well; and, pledge to ourselves and each other that we will do better.
To the credit of the Canadian veterans, their slogan has always been "Never again". They speak with the knowledge of the horrors of war. All my life, I have heard veterans say that because of their experiences in the two World Wars. This was the lesson they brought away from their experience. It is a noble resolve!
Today, I remember. . .we remember!