Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 4:52 AM

In Observance of Veterans Day

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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A colleague astonished me yesterday when she asked, “What’s the deal with that red flower?” Specifically, she wanted to know why Prince William, Kate Middleton, and so many other Brits are wearing a poppy on their lapels these days.

For me, though, this was rather like a colleague asking, “What’s the deal with that pink ribbon?” You know, the one people wear throughout the month of October.

For the edification of those of you who have no clue, people wear the poppy from late October to early November (primarily) to remember those who died in WWI, which began 100 years ago this year. The peace treaty to end this war was reportedly signed at 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

This is why 11:11/11 is generally observed as Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day).

poppies-toewer-of-london-1In recent times, however, Remembrance Day has been designated (secondarily) as a day to remember the dead from all wars, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course, my astonishment at my colleague’s ignorance might just reflect my cultural bias, which stems from this:

“In Flanders Fields”, which was inspired by the death of one soldier during WWI, has evolved over the years into an elegy on all war dead.

My primary school teacher taught me to recite it with the same reverence with which my Sunday school teacher taught me to recite “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Alas, I now struggle to recite both, which probably reveals as much about my encroaching senility as it does my evolving apostasy.)

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

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.

(John McCrae, 1915)

NOTE: This commentary was originally published on November 11, 2011. I reprise it yearly not only to honor all war dead, but also to commend the UK for its awe-inspiring tribute: It features 888,246 long-stem ceramic poppies (one for each of the British and Colonial soldiers who died in that war, and all of them planted in moat formation around the Tower of London, row on row). The tribute is a poignant reminder of the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” that characterized the world wars.

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