In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
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.
Our family of four bought our VFW Buddy Poppies while on a quick Saturday shopping trip. As the veteran of three foreign wars (World War II, Korean War, Vietnam) leaned in to pin the silk poppy to my T-shirt I thought about the experiences he must be recalling this Memorial Day Weekend and I quietly thanked him for his service, sacrifice, and protection.
I waited for my mostly grown children to return from their errand and then introduced them to my new friend and his poppy-selling buddy, a veteran of Vietnam. As we crossed the parking lot to our car, my daughter asked why poppies were a symbol of Memorial Day. All that I could recall was that poppy fields grew in France following World War I. After discussion with my husband, a veteran, and more research I was able to complete the explanation of the poppy.
Lt. Col. John McCrae was stunned by the first growth of red poppies covering the battle-scarred fields in France following a horrific 17 days of intense battle in the Ypres salient. As a tribute to his experiences and fallen comrades, the World War I field doctor penned the moving poem, “In Flanders Field”. The bright red poppies are said to symbolize the blood from fallen comrades on the battlegrounds.
Moina Michael and Madam Guerin, leaders in the American and French YMCA organizations during the same period, responded to McCrae’s moving poem by selling paper poppies to support American veterans and French war orphans.
Today, many members of the allied nations such as Canada, Belgium, Australia and most Commonwealth countries distribute poppies on various remembrance days. Wreaths of poppies are posted at memorial sites throughout the nations, including Arlington National Cemetery.
America’s VFW Buddy Poppy Program are assembled by disabled or needy veterans and proceeds benefit Veterans Assistance Programs of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
When you see a veteran, thank them for their service. When you see a veteran’s family, thank them for their sacrifice.
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