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'In Flanders Fields'

A century of remembering through a war poem.

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.

— Canadian Lt. Colonel John McCrae

Ninety-four years ago, the Armistice was signed to end World War I, “the war to end all wars.” Hostilities ended in most of Europe and a fragile peace was achieved in the following June when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in France. For Americans, November 11th is Veterans Day. In other parts of the world, it is Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. This short poem by Canadian physician and Lt. Colonel John McCrae was written in 1915 in the wake of his friend’s funeral; and it is read in memory of those who died in this very bloody conflict.

“The War to End All Wars” was the maiden conflict of a century of warfare. Untold millions died untimely and unnatural deaths since the end of this heralded conflict. Civilians and soldiers side by side spilled their blood. From the fields of Flanders to the diplomatic base in Benghazi, blood continues to be spilled, war has not ended.

Politics aside, men and women throughout our country’s history have been willing to give their lives, their blood for this country, for us. They may have felt their lives were wasted; but they were not. They may have felt alone and abandoned on some parallel in Korea, or some jungle in Vietnam; but they were not, not by their families. Some gave their lives under compulsion, some volunteered; regardless, their sacrifice is sacred. And it behooves us as a citizenry to press for changes in our government to minimize this kind of sacrifice. There must be a way.

We have entered the 21st Century still bleeding. “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” So as is the nature of man, the bleeding will continue. And we will continue to remember.

On the third Thursday of this month, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is fitting that this month begins with All Souls Day, the day we remember all who have passed, and continues to this day when we remember all who have served and sacrificed, and finally, Thanksgiving, when we remember all we have. Thanksgiving is indeed a balm of Gilead, a comfort to those who mourn. Thank you, Veterans, for your sacrifice and service; and to the heavens, thank You for their lives.

About this column: I am a mom of ten kids living in Pacifica, hence the "shoe" reference is to the children's' nursery rhyme. I mix humor and philosophical musings with everyday events. I hope you like it.

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