Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

Veterans Day - our opportunity to honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces. It's a very special day for many families and can be (should be) a day of recollection for all of us.

Americans originally celebrated Veterans Day as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919. President Woodrow Wilson called for a moment of silence exactly one year after Germany signed the World War I Armistice document, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The President used these words. "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

Today we associate Veterans Day not only with peace, but with war. We celebrate with flags, memorials, parades, and acts of kindness for members of the military. We have a collective hug to let them know that we owe them our way of life. Whatever time of year, it makes me teary-eyed to hear someone walk up to a uniformed member of the armed forces and thank him/her for service.

Today, veterans will be remembered in ways large and small. Full-page patriotic messages from military contractors will run in our newspapers. Restaurants will serve veterans for free, and retailers will offer discounts. You can find out how to participate here. Whatever you choose to do, please do something. Donate to a charity for veterans. There should be no veterans sleeping in tents this winter because they are homeless. We need to end that national disgrace. Support companies hiring veterans. How disappointing it must be to come home from war to an economy with no job for you! Attend a local ceremony. We have many in our area. I plan to go to the one in Falls Church, simply to show the veterans who attend that we care.

We owe our veterans so much. There are 22 million living American veterans and young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't think we can ever fully repay them for their bravery, patriotism, and suffering. There are men and women lying in military hospitals around the country, their bodies and lives shattered. I'm not sure how we can do enough to help them, but I am sure that we all need to try.

The poppies referenced in In Flanders Fields grew in profusion in Flanders, France in the disturbed earth of the battlefields and cemeteries where war casualties were buried - and thus became a symbol of Remembrance Day. The poem is often part of Remembrance Day solemnities in Allied countries that contributed troops to World War I, particularly in countries of the British Empire that participated.

The poem In Flanders Fields was written after Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae witnessed the death, and presided over the funeral, of a young friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer. By most accounts it was written in his notebook the day after the funeral. Because of this poem, poppies have become a symbol of the Armistice.

My mother has a photo of the President of the United States holding her as she gave him a poppy on Veterans Day. As I was growing up, I never fully appreciated the significance of that photo. I do now.

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.

Thank you to all the members of the military - past and present - and your families for your sacrifices. We love you.

Photos courtesy of and


Mercedes said...


Charlestongirl said...

Thank you, Mercedes. Happy Veterans Day!

Miss Brahms said...

You just made me cry. Here's to my dad, my grandfather, and my father-in-law, who helped liberate Greece and North Africa from the Nazis. Thank you Charlestongirl for beginning my day the right way.

Charlestongirl said...

Thank you, Miss Brahms. I get pretty weepy on days like this too. An article in the Post about how we treat our veterans - from missing body parts to missing graves - made me very sad.

Clarisse said...

You have said everything, Charlestongirl!
A happy Veterans Day to you all: we shall always remember and cherish the brave American soldiers who came to help our soldiers and who died to save France and allies from Evil.
We owe that to their memory and their families.
All those veterans fought to make peace triumph and all our soldiers around the world try to do that nowadays and, as you say, we owe them so much: a big thank you to all!

Evelyn said...

Well said! And much thanks to the family of Miss Brahms for helping to liberate the homeland of my parents and thanks to those who have served and continue to serve protecting our freedoms.

Charlestongirl said...

We owe France, big time, Clarisse. The sacrifices of the French soldiers during the wars in Europe are well-known, and we grieve for our parents' generations with you.

Charlestongirl said...


We do all them all such a debt of gratitude! Can you imagine what a different world we would have had if evil had triumphed?

Evelyn said...

It's a frightening thought indeed!

Charlestongirl said...

This is food for thought: From today's Washington Post, which I finally read.