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Posted by on Nov 10, 2019 in England, Europe, History, Holidays, International, Military, Poetry, Society, War | 0 comments

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow…

VA photo

Every Memorial Day and every Veterans Day we read essays meant to explain the differences between the two Days; to clarify whom exactly these Days honor and celebrate; to clear up “misconceptions” about them; to provide historical and legislative context; to compare them to similar Days in other countries — even to clear up confusion about the correct spelling of Veterans Day:

A lot of people think it’s “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day,” but they’re wrong. The holiday is not a day that “belongs” to one veteran or multiple veterans, which is what an apostrophe implies. It’s a day for honoring all veterans — so no apostrophe needed.

Simply – but not lightly – said, our Veterans Day is a day meant to thank and honor all the brave men and women, both living and deceased, who answered the call to serve in our armed forces both in war and peace. But, the Defense Department adds, “…it’s largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices…”

Defense goes on to explain, “Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our country, particularly in battle or from wounds they suffered in battle.”

As mentioned, other countries also consecrate November 11 to honor their veterans, whether falling exactly on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and whether called “Armistice Day,” “Remembrance Day,” “Remembrance Sunday” or “Poppy Day.”

Having lived and served in several of those countries, the latter name, “Poppy Day,” has stuck with me and has a special appeal and meaning.

It is perhaps because of the sight and memories of those beautiful red poppy flowers – a symbol of the fallen — worn by so many and magnificently displayed in special ways, in particular in the United Kingdom.*

It could also be because of the immortal, poignant war poem written by a Canadian military physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, reflecting on the horrors he had seen during the May 1915 Second Battle of Ypres, Belgium (including the loss of a close friend), and while watching wild poppy flowers “blow between the crosses, row on row …” on graves of fellow soldiers in a nearby cemetery in Flanders:

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.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. Navy, and his wife Deborah honor American dead on Veterans Day at Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial in Waregem, Belgium, on Nov. 12, 2007. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, U.S. Navy.

On this American Veterans Day, our thanks, appreciation and respect go – in addition to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice — to the 18.2 million living veterans, men and women from all walks of life who have stepped forward to serve and protect our country and our way of life.


*Royal palaces and the Tower of London have commemorated Remembrance Day and World War I with vast-scale displays of “rivers” of red poppies.

Credit: PaulPitman.

Today, on Remembrance Day, an original World War II Dakota aircraft, “with 40 bullet holes from previous battles,” escorted by two Spitfires, dropped 750,000 poppies as the formation reached the skies above the Battle of Britain War Memorial next to the White Cliffs of Dover.

Poppies dropped above White Cliffs of Dover on Remembrance Sunday

As the nation fell silent to remember the fallen on Remembrance Sunday, a gentle shower of poppies fell over the famous White Cliffs of Dover.They were carried in a battle-scarred Second World War Dakota plane, which released the 750,000 poppies as it soared above the English coastline.Read more:

Posted by ITV News on Sunday, November 10, 2019