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Veterans Day (or Armistice Day)

Today, of course, is the 89th anniversary of the end of World War I, the "war to end all wars."

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

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.


This piece never fails to chill me.

Would that it were remembered more than once a year.
I've always thought of another poem around now; it's a much bigger deal in Europe, and there's always a...not celebration, but I hesitate to say 'solemnization', either, although that's a closer word. But the poem is "The Green Fields of France" by Eric Bogle, and it goes something like this (this is the first stanza):

Well how do you do, Private William McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
A rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day and I’m nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone that you were only 19
when you joined the glorious fallen in 1916.
And I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, William McBride, was it slow and obscene?

(Google the title for the full lyrics; I didn't want to copy them all out-it's not my space)

It's less of a paean to war than "In Flanders Fields", which I always thought was more of a 'take the war forward, boys!' kind of poem, although I know it's the standard.
I knew this, of course, and yet -

and yet when I read "89th" I was a little taken aback: is that all? is it so recent? With the passing of my parents' generation, who fought in the Second World War, the First seems impossibly remote.

Thanks for the reminder.
The First World War feels even more remote to those of us who live in the United States. I think we have but one acknowledged WWI veteran still alive.
And the last time I checked (a few weeks ago), there were only three U.S. veterans of WWI still alive--only one of whom had seen combat. The youngest is 107 as I recall. I think there are something like a dozen surviving veterans worldwide (the youngest of them being 106, the oldest--also the oldest man in Europe--is 111), maybe a few more. Now is an excellent time to think about them and remember again.

How many remember that it was "Armistice Day" until WWII made it clear that war was, in fact, far from obsolete, and the armistice was but a mirage?

My husband doesn't remember it, but I remember being asked to stand for 2 minutes at 11:00am on the 11th day of the 11th month and hold silence, in respect for those who fight for us, all through grade school.

Anyone else?
For whatever reason, Yom Hazikaron has always felt more real to me than Veterans Day or Memorial Day - possibly because Yom Hazikaron was a school day with special commemorations at school (I think we had off for Veterans Day and I know we did for Memorial Day), possibly because it was the only one of the three not treated as a holiday/excuse for a sale by the outside world, and possibly because my family (including WWII vet grandpa) never made a big deal about Veterans Day or Memorial Day, while teachers/parents of classmates made a big deal about Yom Hazikaron (I still remember seeing a second-grade classmate's dad with one suit sleeve partly empty and hearing about how it happened).

December 2016

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