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Thread: In Flanders Field

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    Default In Flanders Field

    With tomorrow being Remberance day in Canada I though I would post a poem every child in this country learns in Grade 5.

    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.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default History of the Poem

    McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem: Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.
    As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.
    It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:
    "I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."
    One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.
    The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.
    In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.
    A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."
    When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:
    "The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."
    In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default Signifigance of Remembrance day

    In 1918 the armistice that ended World War I came into force, bringing to an end four years of hostilities that saw people die at sea, in the air, and on foreign soil. Few Canadian families were left untouched by the events of World War I - 'the war to end all wars' most had lost a father, son, daughter, brother, sister or friend.
    At 11am on 11 November we pause to remember the sacrifice of those men and women who have died or suffered in wars and conflicts and all those who have served during the past 100 years.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    I'd never heard the poem before. The poem and history behind it is very moving. Thanks for posting that, Rob.
    "It is sobering to reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." – Charles A. Beard

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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    Thanks for the post!
    PARKER - HERMAN - SECK

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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    I never heard that poem. Thank you for sharing.
    "Fear is the true opiate of combat."

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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    When I was a kid everything shut down on Rememberance Day. Kids had no school, the banks didn't open, the stores were closed, even the grocery and drugs stores didn't open til noon, now everything is open, sometimes the schools have an assembly, but the veterans still show up at the Cenotaph, say a prayer in honour of their fallen commrades. Then they all march back to the Legion. As an Army Cadet and member of the Reserve I was always involved in the Rememberance Day proceedings, even the schools stopped shutting down for the day, I took off the morning and particiapted in the procceedings.

    Most Canadians wear a poppy in honour of everything our troops have done for us. Today was a drizzly day and it was a little chilly, but all the Veterans were at the Cenotaph, and a few spectators like myself were then. The few spectators went back to the legions with the Veterans, we listened to stories and saw the tears in the eyes as they were told.

    After all that all I can say is Thank you to everyone who has ever served their country.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    Thanks for posting.
    There is nothing so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.
    Unquestionably man has his will - but woman has her way! - Bruce Lee

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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    Great poem Rob. Thanks for posting. Today was Veteran's day here in the US, and I made a rather lengthy observation. For better or worse, I'm publishing it here.

    This morning, I was having breakfast with my 85 year old mother-in-law, LaVerna. She is the widow of Bobby Riddle, who was a United States Marine in WWII, a warrior. Bobby survived the horrors of the war in the South Pacific, and survived the ordeal of Saipan. He passed away a number of years ago in an ignoble death, after breaking his hip and having a prolonged hospitalization. Bobby wasn’t a super man, he was a veteran, and he had a large impact on me. I, too, am a veteran. I wish he’d a’ been there this morning.

    After breakfast, LaVerna went home. I went to the 11:00 a.m. Veteran’s Memorial Service in our small town. It was a cold 37° F, overcast and blustery for such an important day. Regardless of weather, a Veteran’s Day memorial in a small town is an august and dignified affair. It is performed with as much pomp and ceremony as any memorial performed in any large city or on any military camp, anywhere.

    There were a lot of us old warriors there. Maybe it’s not true, but it seems like rural America has a large proportion of old ex-warriors in its tender arms. There were insignias I hadn’t seen, or thought of in years, proudly being displayed on hats, coats, banners. There was a fellow there, younger than me with a Red Horse Cap. Red Horse was, and may still be, a combat engineer operation. This “young” fellow was there with his lovely wife, and younger teenage son, all standing close by with arms around each other. There were ranger patches on sleeveless Levi jackets. There were Army, Air Force, and Navy insignia and rank emblems displayed proudly, and hundreds of American Flags waving, magnificently, in the chilly wind.

    There were some local youngsters, and Reserves, who are either going in the next couple of months, or have been to Iraq and Afghanistan. There was an “old” man in a wheel chair with his heavy black woolen overcoat buttoned up and hugged tightly around him, his VFW garrison cap at a jaunty angle, his wife standing behind him proudly with her hands on his shoulder. There were a couple of wizened, gray haired fellows of various build and condition sporting coats and hats with “Korean War Veteran” patches attached, leaning against store fronts, staying out of the wind. One older fellow with a leather jacket and pilot’s cap emblazoned with F-51 Mustang Fighter symbols and a row of ribbons and other “glitter” pinned on. There were many warriors and their families in attendance, milling, shaking hands, smiling, being proud … Just another Saturday morning in a small Midwest town.

    There were a couple of fellows closer to my age with Special Forces Berets sporting ponytails, beards, sunglasses and Biker colors. There was a color guard made up of an admixture of Veterans from all the wars, and all the service branches that we could muster.

    I began to feel a little strange. I haven’t been to a Veteran’s Day Celebration in years. I just have usually tried to avoid connecting with that part of my history. No. I am not ashamed of it. It’s there. It’s a part of me. I have simply tried to move on. The Viet Nam Warriors came home to an indifferent and often disdainful society. A society that could not understand, nor seemed to care for what we had gone through, slugging through mud, rice paddies, bugs and snakes that most of us will never forget, and the ever present fear that goes with fighting in guerilla fighting style … ambush, hit and run, not even seeing who you killed or who got you. A gut wrenching, insidious type of fighting that wears men out and leaves deep, deep scars that never seem to heal for many of us.

    I simply tried to move on with my life and not become too embroiled in the fact that I had served my country by giving twelve years of my life to it. I keep telling myself that it was only a small segment of what I am and what I have been. In the greater scheme of things, a relatively small portion of my life, barely 20%.

    The ceremony began with a local chaplain praying into a microphone that picked up more low moaning from the wind than the prayer. The local high school band played the Star Spangled Banner, slightly out of tune, and not quite as sharply as the Marine Corp Band. However, as I stood there listening, and the flag began to be raised up the flagpole, there was metamorphosis. The sound of the band became fuller, deeper, precise. I found myself snapping to and presenting a hand salute. I felt a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes, that I guess, could have just as easily been due to the piercing cold wind. But, I knew better. I thought, Hey! I’m not military anymore. I’m not supposed to render a hand salute. Yet as the flag slowly made its way up the pole, I didn’t lower my hand. People around me came into my field of vision, I couldn’t help but notice with deep pride, that virtually every man, and some women had reacted the same way. A Small sea of ancient, old, and not so old warriors, male and female alike, all rendering the highest honor to our flag, and our country that we could for the moment. The simple, yet time honored, hand salute. Even the ancient in the wheel chair, while stooped from years of wear and tear, and God alone knows what travails, was standing and rendering, being held up by his wife, and several folks nearby.

    I do not, in my life, ever remember being so proud as I was this morning. I realized that I am an insignificant part of something that is larger than many people can understand. I’m a member of one of the strongest unions created on God’s Good Earth. I am an American Veteran. It doesn’t matter whether my origin is American, Russian, Canadian, German, or … Whatever from wherever. The spiritual and psychic bond of being a warrior and a surviving American Veteran is something that no one can ever take away. It is a fraternity, maternity, and sorority, a collection of some of the finest human beings to exist, regardless of their station in life … People who found something greater than themselves to believe in, strive for, and too often enough, die for … An ideal that can not be put into simple words, a feeling that can not be described.

    The rest of the service was pretty much a blur. I sadly thought of my late Father-in-law.
    I cried like a baby when they played Taps, that most haunting, forlorn, yet proud song that means so much to us Veterans. After the closing prayer and VFW dismissal, I found myself walking around, shaking hands, smiling between tears, just like all the others, hugging fellow warriors, saying things like a simple “thanks”, and the occasional “Welcome Home”, and “damned glad to meet you”. I think I stood an inch taller, my back straighter, my chest puffed out … Proud to have been a part of this small memorial service, proud to have served, and proud to be an elite American Veteran, with the realization that I’d do it all again, in a heartbeat.

    “God Bless the USA” never had as much meaning for me as it does now. And I would “Gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today”

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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    Quote Originally Posted by Celtic_Crippler View Post
    I'd never heard the poem before. The poem and history behind it is very moving. Thanks for posting that, Rob.
    The first time I remember hearing this poem was in a Charlie Brown TV cartoon special. Now don't laugh too hard. I remember watching the special as a kid and hearing Linus recite the poem, and superimposed on the scene of Linus and Charlie Brown standing among the crosses at an unnamed French war cemetery was the voice of Dwight Eisenhower (when he was a general I think) talking about the sacrifices of young men and such. Even as a kid I knew there was something different and special about this cartoon movie, of course I didn't realize the significance at the time. At the end of the poem, Linus turns as asks, "What have we learned Charlie Brown?"


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    Default Re: In Flanders Field

    Thank you!

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