My grandfather served in both World Wars. His birthday was November 11 and he frequently told his family that the end of World War I was the best birthday gift he ever got. He may have had a point, you know.
Yesterday, I happened to chat with a lovely British woman who knows so much more about today’s commemoration than I. In the UK, people wear poppy buttons (sometimes seen in the US) in remembrance of those who fell in battle during the Great War. The poppy reference comes from the poem “In Flanders Field” written by John McCrae [updated – McCrae was a Canadian and the Canadians wear the poppy buttons, too!] who witnessed the death of his friend in battle. Flanders is a region of France where poppies grow wild there, as they do in other parts of Europe.
There’s also the tradition of two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, in honor of all who have died serving their country.
This lovely lady is the type who can recite poetry from memory and recite she did. From Laurence Binyon’s poem “For The Fallen”:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home…
I like to honor all veterans on this day, not just those who have fallen. Those who remain have their own kind of suffering that the rest of us all will never understand.
Thank you all for your service.
Here’s an awesome example of service, from aWAPost story about Marine Cpl. Todd A. Nicely
Some nice pull quotes:
Nicely recalled: “I remember . . . thinking to myself . . . ‘Just keep breathing so you can get back to your wife.’ ”
“I remember screaming once or twice,” he said. “You know, those curdling, bloody screams that they do on the movies, like: ‘Waaaah! Waah!’ I did that a couple times, and I remember thinking to myself: ‘Don’t do that again, because this is the last image that these boys are going to have of you in their heads. So stay strong.’ After that, I just shut up.”
He was quiet for a minute, then asked, “Did anybody else get hurt?”
She said no.
“Good,” he said.
“I just want to thank everybody,” he said, gesturing with his artificial left arm. “I’d like to . . . thank my platoon for getting me back. If it wasn’t for you guys, I don’t think I’d be alive today.
“Other than that, I really don’t have much more to say,” he said.
He rubbed his nose with his flesh-colored left hand, shifted his weight on his legs and added, “I love you guys.”