Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, Veterans Day - Remembering Our Fallen Heroes: Lest We Forget

November 11th - the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month - on this day, every year, men, women, and children around the world stand in silence to honor all who died in war - all who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their countries.

Whatever the name you call this day - Veterans' Day, Remembrance Day - and however you choose to commemorate that sacrifice - by parades, the laying of wreaths, a minute of silence, hymns, and somber ceremony - November 11th has become, for many of us, a day when we honor all our veterans. It has also become a day dedicated to the ideal that all wars shall one day cease.

In Europe, November 11th is remembered as Armistice Day, after the armistice, or the signing of the documents that proclaimed the end of "The Great War" (World War I). The armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month: 11 a.m. on November 11th, 1918.

Photo from deltamusicmakers.org
Photo from deltamusicmakers.org

Europeans commemorate this day as "Armistice Day", Americans as "Veterans Day", and citizens of the Commonwealth (Canada, Great Britain, Australia, etc.) as "Remembrance Day".

To some, it is known as "Poppy Day" after the flowers that grew in such profusion in the fields around Flanders, in northern Belgium, where many hundreds of the fallen were buried.

The poem "In Flanders Fields" was written by a Canadian physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, as he sat on the back of his ambulance at the battle front. One short day after he witnessed the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, McRae penned these lines:

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.

Photo from oz.deichman.net
Photo from oz.deichman.net

To wear a poppy is...

The poppy has become a symbol of the respect and gratitude we offer those who fought in foreign wars.

It is a sign that we stand together in remembrance of all those who have died in service of their countries.

When we wear the poppy, we honor all who served, and all who will never return to home and family.

We pledge that we will remember, and we pledge that their sacrifice will not have gone in vain, for part of that promise is that we shall "study war no more" - at least that is always the fervent hope.

Standing post at the Cenotaph (War Memorial) on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa - photo from picasaweb.google.com
Standing post at the Cenotaph (War Memorial) on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa - photo from picasaweb.google.com
The tomb of the Unknown Soldier - photo from dkoyanagi.com
The tomb of the Unknown Soldier - photo from dkoyanagi.com
Veterans' Day Parade from post420mag.com
Veterans' Day Parade from post420mag.com
Photo from wtxl.com
Photo from wtxl.com

When I see the inevitable children's choir on Parliament Hill, or on Capitol Hill, and I hear them singing the old military hymns, or yet another arrangement of McRae's beautiful poem, "In Flanders Fields " I wonder what goes through the children's minds.

Most of them are not old enough to have a parent who would remember the Korean War, also known as "a police action," let alone a mom or dad able to recall anything but the aftermath of World War II - a grandparent, perhaps.

I knew what I thought about...

My father served in WWII as a radio operator, in the bowels of a minesweeper off the Pacific coast. His brother served in the North Atlantic, on the convoys. Both of them survived. My mother's second cousin, Jackie, who served aboard submarines, was not so lucky.

I still remember my grandmother talking about rationing, pouring tea for sailors at the Red Cross, and knitting woolen socks for the submariners - "because their feet would get so terribly cold and wet, dear," she once explained to me.

My dad's father was gassed at Ypres, in the "Great War." He always had a terrible wracking cough, that grew much worse as he got older.

My mother's father was in the cavalry in both wars, and fought in some of the bloodiest arenas of both. I remember some of his surviving regimental buddies coming over on Vimy Day and re-fighting the battle of Vimy Ridge, loudly, and in great detail, over a bottle or two of McGinties Finest.

My grampa had a Sergeant-Major's vocabulary, to go with his stripes, but rarely let fly at home. Granny did not approve of "language." Vimy Day was one of the occasions she said nothing about "language" to him or his cronies, but merely shooed us kids away, to let the men "talk about things."

My father was a career man in the Royal Canadian Navy (now the Canadian Armed Forces). Older brothers, uncles, and cousins of the kids I grew up with served as Peace Keepers in arenas such as Cypress, which have mercifully long since passed into the history books.

We were all too familiar with the telegram delivered by the man from Base HQ. We knew people whose families had received them.

During the era of Vietnam, we watched a nation turn from honoring our service men and women to reviling them.

Those years were a time of upheaval north of the 49th as well. Those of us with ties to the military learned to keep our heads down, and be grateful for Canadian reticence.

We had proudly applauded as The Ed Sullivan Show featured Staff Sgt. Barry Saddler, singing "The Ballad of the Green Beret," yet a few short years later, we were "Going to San Fransisco" to push daisies into gun-barrels and weep as Treat Williams flew off to war in "Hair."

The pendulum of popular emotion swings one way and then back, and then starts the other way again. There is no all-right or all-wrong here. Both positions, both sides of the fence, are equally right and equally wrong.

I used to love to sing the hauntingly beautiful laments, and stirring paeans of Ireland's troubled past - "The Ballad of the Black and Tan ," "The Foggy Dew ," The Merry Plowboy ," "Four Green Fields " ...but there is no glory in death, only the pain of the dying, and the loss and longing of those left behind, no matter how poignant or brave a face the bards try to put upon it.

I have not ever, nor cannot imagine that I ever will support a war - any war, for I am an idealist. Life is precious, and I believe there are always other, better ways to resolve any issue than by killing so many of our brightest and best young people. I am, however, deeply indebted and grateful to those who put themselves in harm's way so that I can live in a country where I am allowed hold and live out such ideals.

On November 11th, at 11 a.m., we honor those who paid for our freedom with their lives. We stand at the cenotaph, and thank them for the great gift they gave us, and for the legacy of service and integrity they have bestowed upon those who will come after them.

"They shall not grow old as we who 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 ..."

Remembrance Day - The Last Post

Photo from necroford.ru
Photo from necroford.ru

© 2010 RedElf

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28 comments

LaurieDawn profile image

LaurieDawn 6 years ago

Greetings,

I just wish to say thank you for such a moving hub. And thank you for remembering all those Veteran's, and for those that serve. Truly moving and written splendid.

Blessings,

Laurie


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, LaurieDawn. I am happy to share this with everyone.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I commend you, RedElf, on this heartfelt and genuine tribute to all American veterans as well as the wonderful information about the meaning of "Poppy Day," the great poem by Colonel John McCrae and the inspirational veterans memorials. You've managed to strike just the right note. Thanks.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you so very much, Bill. That means a lot to me to hear that. It was something I felt a real need to say.


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 6 years ago from Canada's 'California'

An excellent hub RedElf - I feel that we need writing like this to ensure the younger generation grows up knowing what these valiant men and women sacrificed for us. Let us never forget...


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Enelle. That is my hope with writing this, that the young ones will take something from this.


Toby Hansen 6 years ago

Thank you, RedElf.

I am 38 years old, and have never missed a Remembrance Day observation.

Like so many other Australians, I have a Great-Great Uncle buried at Lone Pine, Turkey. He was killed in action on 26 August 1915, aged 19.

My Grandfather served in WWII in Palestine, Syria, and New Guinea, where he was Mentioned In Dispatches to King George. Grandfather was one of the lucky ones - he made it home.

It saddens me when people ask why I am proud of my military ancestors, or why I bother wearing a poppy, going to Dawn Service for ANZAC Day, etcetera.

I am proud of them because of what they gave up for me. I bother because I am a proud Australian who believes that not enough is done to remember the sacrifices of those who fought and died for freedom, King, and Country.

See you at the next Dawn Service.

Lest We Forget.

"And year after year their numbers get fewer - one day no one will march there at all." - And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, Eric Bogle.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

See you at the service, Toby! God Bless!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Great tribute to all these wonderful young men who gave their lives. The pictures of those cemetrieste ars tearing my heart out. To me it is an awful crime and only because of those top mob.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Very well done, Red Elf. Thank you :)


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Wonderful hub...I'm wearing my poppy today.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 6 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Nice work, RedElf - Thanks for taking the time to write this :)


carrie450 profile image

carrie450 6 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

A wonderful hub on honoring our Veterans RedElf. thanks


debbiesdailyviews profile image

debbiesdailyviews 6 years ago

A beautiful tribute, and very well put.

I'm glad I read this today, It made it all the more special.


leni sands profile image

leni sands 6 years ago from UK

Fab hub RedElf, I agree it is a truly beautiful tribute - we joined the 2 mins silence at 11am today.

On Monday this week 'The Cheshires' marched passed the shop, everyone came out of the shops, applauding them and waving our flags to show our appreciation of them. The Gurka's were the last troop to pass by - it was an amazing and moving sight. They've just come back from Helmand Province, have been given the freedom of the county and are exercising that freedom by marching in all the Cheshire Towns. The thing that dawned on me as I watched them was that they were so young - some of them were probably in my classes. Just boys - as they were all those years ago during both World Wars, it is so sad!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hh, the causes are many, but the results are the same - young men and women die. So sad.

Thank you so much, Paraglider, UW, sufi, carrie - I just got back from the memorial service. Still wearing my poppy. The service was very moving and the message was about passing on the legacy to our young people. Thanks for your kind words.

Thanks, debbie, and leni - we watched the service from Parliament Hill, before attending our own a couple of hours later. One of the wreaths was laid by a local serviceman who had returned from active duty in Afghanistan only the day before - that made for a very special memorial.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Very nice tribute to Veterans Day and as my husband is a Vietnam veteran, I say thank you for him. It's important to remember whether we agree with a war or not that the men and women who serve deserve our undying gratitude.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

"Flander's Field" makes tears come to my eyes. I remember my brother, who died in the Navy. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. I still remember the men playing "Taps" at his funeral.

For all the veterans, who survived their conflicts--God bless them and thank you, Red Elf, for helping us not to forget them.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, this is a great tribute, My mum was in the R.A.F. in the second world war and my dad was in the army, my uncle Ron was a navigator in a wellington bomber, and got shot down in Scotland in WW2, I saw all the tribute's on TV this morning, and felt sad and close to my mum and dad, who I lost ten years ago, great hub thank you, cheers nell


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

akirchner, you and your husband are most welcome. It's important to my family, too - thanks.

Paradise7, you are so right - bless them all, and I am so pleased you found this tribute moving.

Thanks so much, Nell - that means a lot, coming from someone from a military family! Cheers!


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

That poem is one of my perennial favorites. I am glad you wrote this hub, and thankful for those who have served and who are serving this great nation. Land of the free.

Namaste.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

DD, we all have a lot to be grateful for - our servicemen and women certainly deserve our gratitude and respect! Blessings!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for this lovely Hub in remembrance of those who are not with us because they defended our freedom. God Bless You!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, James. I am so pleased to be able to honor them, and let everyone who reads this know how proud I am of my family and all who served - God bless them.


grumpyveteran961 5 years ago

I have just found your Hub, RedElf. Like you, my father served in the Royal Navy in WWII, but in Northern Europe, partly in American-built BYMS. Luckily he came home. In my family, all three services are represented with service in WWII.I served in the RAF post war, my son is servimg in the RAF and my nephew is commissioned in the Royal Navy, so I am extremely proud of the military service my family has.

I am heavily involved in Remembrance events as a member of the Royal British Legion, locally and at County Level. When people ask why we still do it,I have one answer- "To stop the horror from happening again". Unfortunately, there are people who do not wish to heed this message,and fight for nebulous causes anyway. I was privileged to see the Royal Anglian Regiment march past in a homecoming parade. Imagine my disgust when a gang of trouble makers turned out to heckle and disrupt another such parade.

Like you, I will continue to wear my Poppy with pride and gratitiude to those who have died defending our beliefs and freedoms. Keep up the good work!!!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much - always wonderful to hear from other "Service types" - nice to meet you! I am sure you will find plenty of like-minded souls here.


angie ashbourne profile image

angie ashbourne 5 years ago

Hi! Excellent Hub! God Bless


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, angie ashbourne. Glad you liked the hub. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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