Happy Veterans Day, readers. Thank you very much to those who have fought for our freedom, risking–and, in some cases, losing–their lives. According to the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Veterans Day is “when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities [of World War I], between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of ‘the war to end all wars.'”
Across the pond and in other Commonwealth of Nations countries, the day is called “Remembrance Day,” “Armistice Day,” or “Poppy Day,” all really the same holiday with different names. King George V (the father of Colin Firth’s King George VI in The King’s Speech) made the holiday official in 1919, while President Woodrow Wilson made it official (at the same time) here in the U.S.A.
Well, unfortunately, we know now that it wasn’t the war to end all wars. But as much violence and hatred as there is in the world, I do think we learned from that war. This is not to discount the tragedy others experience–I know it, and I grieve for it. What I mean is that I see a movement overall towards love, towards peace. I truly believe that each day, we are crawling towards a more peaceful future. Call me crazy, but I bet you can count more people you love than hate. Eventually, I bet we can get everyone to focus on that. It makes you think about the destiny of humanity and the reason for our existence, which would be an epic-length post in and of itself, and I shan’t delve into it more than that tonight. 😉
My friend, Susan, posted this poem yesterday in honor of Veterans Day. Its history is almost as beautiful as its text. Would you believe it almost wasn’t published? Writers are so hard on themselves; I can attest. Here is a case of a lovely poem that dances the line of what would commonly be considered too sentimental to be published–but I say, if there’s anything to be sentimental about, it’s the real deaths of thousands of people. The symbolism and message are so poignant; it’s no wonder the poppy has become the international symbol of this day.
Wikipedia summarizes the history very well [don’t worry, I checked with other sources, too 😉 ]:
“In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant ColonelJohn McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially unsatisfied with his work, discarded it. “In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.
It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where “In Flanders Fields” is one of the nation’s best known literary works.
In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD
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.
Beautiful, isn’t it? The poppy is starting to catch on as a tradition in the U.S.A., too, thanks in part to Duchess Catherine’s popularizing it. Jennifer asked for the pin last year for Christmas, and I just had to get it for her. 100% of the profits go to support British veterans and their families. You can buy it here.
Today, Marianjoy held a Veterans Day ceremony, including prayer, naming of veterans, and dedication of a commemorative plaque. We even had some veterans present for the ceremony, which was certainly humbling.
It was very moving, and, fittingly, it was even raining at the time.
Thank you again to all those who have fought for peace. May you enjoy peace yourselves, wherever you are. God bless you.
Please also see my Memorial Day post to see what that holiday (and this one) mean to our family. Additionally, please join me
tomorrow later today for a new Top Ten Tuesday. The topic: signs you may be reading too much YA literature. (Is that possible?)