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.
~Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
This is the poem read at each and every Memorial Day ceremony in my small town growing up. Each Memorial Day, we would walk in the rain for the parade – me in my girl scout uniform, my dad in his military uniform – to the cemetery where they had raised all of the flags. The flags were all flags from veterans who died and whose families donated the flags on condition they would be raised each Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. My grandpa’s flag was raised my senior year of high school after my grandpa died. He served in the Pacific during WWII and in Korea. After the honoring of the veterans who died that prior year and their flags were raised, this poem would be read, followed by a 21-gun salute – usually howitzers – and then the playing of Taps. There is nothing as somber as standing there, the smoke from the howitzers drifting through the cemetery, as the American flags of veterans who passed waved.
Memorial Day was always a very important day in our family. A day where we honored those who died in military service. With a dad who served in the military for 21 years and a grandpa who served, it was always an important day to honor those who did not make it home.
So today, like I will, I ask you remember those who served – those who didn’t make it home. Regardless of your feelings of war, these men and women went to war when their country told them to go. You hate war? Go talk to the politicians. Honor the soldiers who did what their country asked them to do. Honor their sacrifice.
And while you are at it, say a little prayer to your deity of choice or into the universe, that those who are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan make it home safe and sound.