By STACEY SOLT
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. …
This poem is often used around Memorial Day and remains one of the most popular poems written during World War I. It was written by a young Canadian surgeon and Lieutenant Colonel, John McCrae, after he witnessed the death of a 22-year-old friend.
It seems like not much has changed since this poem was written in 1915. We are again at war, and the young men and women of our country continue to fight for our freedom. The lucky ones come home - but many Americans have not.
Since 2003, more than 5,471 Americans have lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). An additional 37,000 were wounded in action, and countless others carry their wounds and scars on the inside, where they can't be seen or counted.
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.…
During peace time, it's easy to let Memorial Day and other veteran's holidays pass without noticing. I was guilty of this, too. I knew that my family members and friends had served in World War II, Vietnam and other conflicts, but it didn't really "mean" anything. War was something that happened in far-away lands - and my family and friends were okay now, weren't they? War was a very abstract idea.
Now my own generation is marching off to war, and the sacrifice that my parents' and grandparents' generation made has become all too clear. These fallen soldiers that we honor each year were fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. We must never forget that they are so very much like us, simply trying to make the best possible life and country for their family.
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 Memorial Day, I ask you not to argue whether we "should" be overseas fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Memorial Day is not about honoring or celebrating war - it is a time to remember those who have died in service to our country.
I ask you to take a moment to remember the soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Visit a cemetery or memorial to place a flag or flower in honor of a fallen soldier. Fly your American flag at half-staff until noon. Or simply pause at 3 p.m. for the National Moment of Remembrance. This is also a good time to volunteer support for windows, widowers, and orphans of fallen soldiers, and disabled veterans who have returned from war.
I am grateful for their sacrifice, because it means that I am still able to live my life and raise a family as I wish. This is a precious gift. Thank you.
("In Flanders Field" is by John McCrae, 1872-1918.)