It is fitting, on this Memorial Day weekend, that we recall the words penned by Lt. Col. John McCrea.
“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.”
The poem was first published in 1915, before the United States entered World War I.
Americans already volunteered to fight with our allies. They went as soldiers, they went as pilots.
McCrea served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Yet, his poem became part of the United States’ expression of patriotism, honor and sacrifice. The familiar poppies that mark our Memorial Day were inspired by the poem.
It is about duty and courage. World War I was a nasty conflict. Not only did troops face small arms fire, bombs and cannon bombardments, they encountered gas warfare. Gas was seen as a means to kill combatants in the trenches, to render entire units immobile, and to enhance the killing fields between enemy forces.
It was outlawed, but not before many men died horrible deaths. Survivors who were gassed in the war never again took a normal breath. They lived with the hell until they died.
But our heroes fought until the enemy was totally conquered. Liberty was at stake. The security of our nation hung in the balance. Our heroes did not fail.
Armed conflict is still hell on Earth. Our warriors have never failed us. We have failed them on occasion, but they have never faltered in protecting us and our way of life.
Memorial Day is for remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We mourn our dead. We laud their honor. They served proudly. We must never break faith with all those who have given their lives that we might live free and happy.
God bless our heroes. May they be surrounded by the peace that passes all understanding.