Sunday, November 11, 2012

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 and tomorrow, 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. 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.

We owe our veterans so much. There are about 23 million living American veterans today. 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 the Woodford Humane Society,,, and


Nemo said...

Can you post the pic of your mother?

Charlestongirl said...

Nemo, I will see if she can dig it up and try to scan it. As you know, they didn't have digital images in those days.

Clarisse said...

Happy Veterans Day from across the Atlantic! Thank you for your beautiful post, Charlestongirl, you said it all!
For the 1rst time in France too, it's called Veterans Day and we celebrate all the soldiers who died in a recent conflicts (Afgahnistan etc..)Before, it was Armistice Day only celebrating the millions who fell in Flanders Fields. I'm always moved when I think of the Flanders Fields: those melancholy plains are deeply associated with the "Grande Guerre" as it was called: so many innocent, young soldiers (from all countries) were killed and are buried in those fields...every year people keep finding bullets, weapons, bombs still there in those's unbelievable..We must never forget those brave men who everywhere fought for the triumph of freedom!

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Clarisse,

Today (and tomorrow, a federal holiday), we honor all of our veterans - deceased and still with us - who served our country and our those of our allies to ensure our freedom, freedom we don't fully appreciate until we think of what might have been.

I get emotional every time I read (and publish - it's become a ritual here at BTiB) Flanders Fields. I imagine I would walk that living memorial in tears if I were to visit. I wonder how many weapons are yet to be discovered there. Today, in Virginia, we sill find (albeit rarely now that my area is overdeveloped), native American arrow heads.

We join hands in saluting all the men, women, and dogs (!) who served our countries. I'm heartened that Veterans Day has become less isolated and that our country and citizens are doing more every day of the year to remember them.

Rosemary said...

A beautiful post, CG. Thank you.

Charlestongirl said...

Thank you, Rosemary!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your beautiful post about Veteran's Day. Being an Army wife it means so much to see other's appreciate Veteran's Day. Thank you again.

Charlestongirl said...

Thank you, Anonymous. Please give your Army husband a hug from all of us.

Vanessa said...

Dear Charleston Girl,

Thank you for such a thoughtful essay about America and those who serve in the Armed Forces. The poem is poignant and written from the heart with the dignity soldiers deserve. Poems are wonderful and I love that you included one in your piece.

Evelyn said...

So beautiful and very sad as well. Thank goodness for those who walk before us to protect the freedoms we hold dear.

Charlestongirl said...

Thank you, Vanessa. Honoring our veterans touches my heart. I care.

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Evelyn,

We can never adequately say thank you.