Today is a day of remembrance. My father served in World War II, and I grew up with stories.
Stories of fear, stories of friends lost, stories of a large family back home … missed, stories of travel, stories of death, stories of rations on the home front and even a story about the best spaghetti in Italy!
Many of the stories told by veterans are of the worst life has to offer.
In World War II, the average age of a soldier was 26 and many were still only in their teens. That’s too young to understand the world and why you are in it, let alone to add the burden of war to the mix. And of course, it is too young to lose your life, yet far too many did.
That’s why Remembrance Day at it’s core is a day of solemnity; a day to be reminded of the youth who paid the ultimate price so that we can live the life we have today … and we can’t forget … ever.
But it is also a day of celebration. A day to celebrate these young men and the sacrifices they made so that we could continue to live lives of liberty.
I think that something is lost in translation when it comes to Remembrance Day. We see that old man sitting outside the grocery store in all his military finery selling poppies, and we unconsciously think, “oh well, no great loss, he’s had a long life; why should I pay attention”.
I ask you, next time, to replace your vision of the old man with a young man. The young man who helped you to the car with your groceries, the young man skateboarding carefree down the street, the young man peering down at his cellphone on the street corner. Then think of him at war, frightened, hungry, or even gone. The old man was a young man once, and the ones we lost were young men. Sons, grandsons, husbands and young fathers. And it is these young men, as well as all veterans, that we must celebrate.
Like many, I love the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian Dr. and Lieutenant- Colonel John McCrae on May 3, 1915. In three short paragraphs, he captures the essence of the horror that is war and our need to remember.
His inspiration for the poppy reference comes from the fact that he witnessed poppies growing very quickly around the graves of the soldiers who were buried in Flanders Fields. Was nature trying to honour them by providing something beautiful to surround them? It’s a bit mystical, isn’t it?
Dr. McCrae didn’t want to publish the poem, which he wrote after witnessing his close friend die in World War I, because he wasn’t happy with the quality of it. But, had he not done so, the world would have lost a “teacher”. A way to enlighten future generations of the meaning of Remembrance Day, and of course, the introduction of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who lost their lives in the wars.
But many don’t know that there is another poem, written by Moina Michael, an American teacher, which is the true origin of why we wear a poppy for remembrance. Inspired by Dr. McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”, she wrote a poem titled “We Shall Keep The Faith”. Here’s a link from The Great War UK, to Moina Michael’s beautiful poem and the story behind it.
What does Remembrance Day mean to you? Is it only a day of remembrance? Here’s an article from The Prince Arthur Herald titled “What is the meaning of remembrance day” which offers six beautiful answers to this question.