Written in by John McCrae (1915)
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.
After witnessing the carnage of WWI John McCrae wrote "In Flanders Fields." McCrae, a Canadian, was a medical officer in the Boer War and World War I. (Poem & history are from HERE.)
My summertime memories of Memorial Day weekends are filled with barbecues and paper flowers, with the seriousness of what we were truly “celebrating” etched into my memory. As a military brat, moving from base to base, I was surrounded by the symbols of our country. Often there would be an air show marking the event, with the ThunderBirds soaring above us. I would play with the red paper poppies, twirling them on their little stems of green wire, and tucking them into my hair.
I grew up under the influence of a patriotic family. The men in my father’s side of the family all served in the military: my grandfather served in the Army and was a veteran of World War II, my oldest uncle served in the Navy and was a veteran of Vietnam, the next uncle is still serving in the Army Reserves, and my father has retired from the Air Force.
My grandfather’s birthday was on Memorial Day. And he was serious about what the holiday stood for. With M*A*S*H often playing in the background, he would tell my sister and I some of the tales of what he lived through on the Pacific Front. Unfortunately his war stories are lost in the fog of memory, and I’ll never be able to ask him to repeat them to me. The emotions of those stories: the silliness of young men with pornographic tattoos (yes, he had a couple of lovely ladies on his forearms), the ominous fear of each fight, the strangeness of the enemy, the bravery of his fallen companions…these are graven into my memory.