In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
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.
That poem reminds me of my youth. Growing up in East Texas, we observed most all things patriotic. I had many small town “little boy” jobs. Mowing lawns (with a boy-powered push mower), selling newspapers, you name it, I did it. One job I remember was selling Buddy Poppies, the paper replica flowers that the Veterans of Foreign Wars sell to raise money for disabled veterans. These were to honor our fallen soldiers. And at that time the focus was on WWII men and women.
Somehow I cannot visualize myself being in a war. I did spend a few years in the U.S. Navy; however, it was not during a period of American involvement in conflict. Honorably discharged in 1960, I spent the bulk of my military service aboard the USS Oriskany and the USS Hornet, both aircraft carriers. I married in 1959 and made the transition to civilian life upon my discharge. A few years later, America became involved in the Vietnam War.
But raising a family was my first concern and while my allegiance was to my family, I have always been conflicted about not serving during that period of time. Even today, I feel a deep regret for not stepping up to the plate. I feel sorrow for those who had the unpopular task in the Vietnam era.
My father-in-law was a combat veteran during WWII, serving in the SeaBees and among the first to venture onto the islands of the South Pacific, fighting battles and building airstrips. He was very private about his time in the service, but was among the many who received accolades for his time in the military, unlike the Vietnam veterans. I suppose this is one reason I feel a kinship with those who did.
Many returned home to an unpopular welcome. Derided and made to feel ashamed of their service. No other service to our country has ever been placed in that reasoning. Over 58,000 American men and women lost their lives during that conflict, and at the time those who survived were made to feel ashamed. That was a disgrace then and now.
Monday, May 27th is the day we observe Memorial Day this year. It is a day of remembering and honoring persons who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The burden is upon you, the America citizen, to remember and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. Don’t disappoint me. Remember and respect all who did so. They served with distinction. And to the Vietnam veterans, I especially thank you for your service. I apologize for you taking my place.
Maybe I can find a Buddy Poppy to wear this Memorial Day. I do remember.
No one promised that we would have peace at the time that you served. You were there to offer yourself in service to your country, whether at war or at peace. Be proud of that. Thank you for this post–your thoughtful reminder is well taken.
I appreciate your kind words and thanks for remembering.