Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Today is November 11th, or Veterans Day here in America, Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth, and Armistice Day in Belgium, France, and New Zealand.

In Commonwealth countries, it is traditional to wear poppies on this day, in remembrance of the end of World War I. Why poppies? Because of the poem 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.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae
(McCrae wrote it on May 3rd, 1915, after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day before.)

The poppies referred to in the poem grew in profusion in Flanders where war casualties had been buried and thus became a symbol of Remembrance Day.

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