Thursday, November 11, 2010

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 asked all Americans to “remember the armistice and embrace the peace.”

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. 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's a good day to practice that gracious gesture!

We owe our veterans more - so much more. There are 22 million living American veterans, from Frank Buckle of West Virginia, who is 109, to 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 about one thing. Those who appropriate military funerals to stage political protests are cruel. They aren't exercising free speech. They're demonstrating cruelty and hate.

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.

We have a photo of the President of the United States holding my then-child mother, who was giving him a poppy. 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.


Eileen said...

Thank you for such a touching and thoughtful tribute to our men and women in the armed forces. Today is, indeed, a time to reflect and give thanks to all the men and women who protect our homeland and secure our peace.

My father was a pilot in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. In fact, he was a bit of a hero although he never considered himself to be one. He thought of himself as just a college art teacher who knew how to fly crop dusters. Well, that was an understatement because he went on to
become a highly decorated Ace. Amongst his medals were two Purple Hearts. Although he was shot down (twice!) and spent almost 48 hours in the ocean the first time, as soon as he recuperated from his injuries he rejoined his comrades because there was still a job to be done. He could have stayed safe at home and have gone on the fund raising circuit drumming up contributions for the war effort, but he knew that there was never any real safety or peace for those who left it up to other people to make the sacrifice.

My dad died over sixty years ago, but for me, this has always been a day of remembrance and gratitude for the sacrifices he made. It's appropriate that Veterans Day is so close to Thanksgiving. Thank you to everyone--past, present, and future--who give so much of themselves to protect us.

Charlestongirl said...

Thank you, Eileen.

Your father was a hero! I'm so sorry you lost him so many years ago. He and his generation gave us our security - bravely and repeatedly. I get chills when I watch old footage from WWII. I wish I could have known your dad. Our fathers (and mothers) shaped the world we know today - as do those serving today.

They truly were "The Greatest Generation." To quote Tom Brokaw, "It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order. They know how many of the best of their generation didn't make it to their early twenties, how many brilliant scientists, teachers, spiritual and business leaders, politicians and artists were lost in the ravages of the greatest war the world has seen."

Allison said...

Thank you for sharing your kind thoughts on Veteran's Day. It really touched me as well since my husband recently spent 6 months deployed in Afghanistan with the Air Force. He's been home now for 6 months, thank goodness! When he was gone it was challenging, I have a professional career and we have 2 young children. Thank God for my Mom, she's a hero to me as well since she lived with me most of the time he was gone. The amazing thing was due to the technology we have today, my boys and I could talk to and video chat with my husband almost everyday!

Anyway, during his deployment, I "rediscovered" makeup, it made me feel better and gave me a lift. I had always worked full time, but I cut back my hours when my husband left and it gave me a little time just for myself. That's how I discovered your blog and several others. Now I'm seriously addicted to makeup!

Even though I don't always agree with the politics, I fully support the efforts and sacrifices our military and their families make to give us the freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted. So thank you for taking the time to remember our veterans!