Friday, November 10, 2017

"In Flanders Field the poppies grow..."

My father was old enough to be my grandfather.  He served with distinction in World War I in the U.S. Army Dental Corps.  He's pictured above in the back row, last soldier on the right in the photo.  His first wife of about 25 years died, and he married my mother.  They had two daughters, of which I am the oldest.

He didn't discuss life in the Army except in terms of the discipline and the routines he had to learn, which he passed on to my sister Mary and myself.  We learned how to "fall in," how to salute, and how to march "over hill, over dale." We learned how to dry ourselves off after a bath with a towel handled with great precision.   We had an old coal shed in the back yard that we used as a playhouse.  There we were able to pore over souvenirs he had of his time in the military, including the photo, above.

The day we call Veterans Day is the 11th day of the 11th month.  That was the day celebrated throughout Europe as Armistice Day -- the end of World War I on that date in 1917.  It has been celebrated as "Remembrance Day" in Europe since that year, but here we now call it Veterans Day, to honor those who served in all wars since then as well.  We remember them also on Memorial Day in May, where paper poppies are sold and worn to support veterans of foreign wars.

From World War I, we also have a famous poem that Dad taught us:
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"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."
                 -- John McCrae

Tomorrow I will be remembering my father and all other veterans.  Don't blame veterans for decisions that are political and made top of the house in this country.  Having veterans in my classroom over the years has added to the richness of every discussion. 

Bending swords into plowshares these days takes another shape -- the logistical/intelligence gathering/decision making/project management skills that veterans learned in their time in the service are absorbed easily back into civilian life.  We honor veterans for their service, and I continue to support organizations like Team Rubicon, who take those skills that soldiers have learned and deploy them for good, to turn the corner on disaster response in this country and abroad.  To read more about Team Rubicon's work and even make a donation, check them out at https://teamrubiconusa.org/





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