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… In Flanders Fields(full poem below)

Does your heart stir at these words?

Growing up, my heart was moved by the Memorial Day Services, even before I was old enough to understand. Mrs. Delores Wilson, wearing her American Legion sash would hold a red paper poppy as she recited “In Flanders Fields” every year at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in my hometown of Lodi, Wisconsin, with a population of almost 2000. Delores has passed, but her daughter, Kay will recite it this year.

In Mount Pleasant is buried our kin, including my mother’s older brother, Cortland, who sacrificed his life in WWII in Belgium in the lead-up to the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. I wasn’t born for another fifteen years, but I knew he was a hero. We’d plant red geraniums at family graves, and to this day the smell of geraniums takes me to those Memorial Days of my youth.

The graves of all deceased military were decorated with flags. On Mom’s and Grandma’s purses were the paper poppies sold by the American Legion Auxiliary. The origin of the poppy as a symbol to honor the fallen soldiers is traced to John McCrae’s touching poem “In Flanders Fields” which memorializes the April 1915 battle in Belgium’s Ypres salient. Today, not only the United States, but Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia wear red poppies on Remembrance Day and Memorial Day to commemorate fallen soldiers.

Image result for flanders field poppy story
Continual bombardment during WWI disturbed the soil and brought the seeds to the surface. They were fertilized by nitrogen in the explosives and lime from the shattered rubble of the buildings.

It is noted that the war created prime conditions for poppies to flourish for many years in Flanders and northwest France. Continual bombardment disturbed the soil and brought the seeds to the surface. They were fertilized by nitrogen in the explosives and lime from the shattered rubble of the buildings.

For seventeen days, McCrae tended those injured in the battle. The poem, written after the death of a close friend, led to the adoption of the poppy as the Flower of Remembrance for the British and Commonwealth war dead.

Decades later, my Cub Scout sons passed out flags at Memorial Day services. My daughter sang the song version of “In Flanders Fields.” The school band played. Veterans saluted, and the community gathered in the town square. Standing, neighbor by neighbor, we paused. We are honored by putting our hands over our hearts.

May we teach our children and grandchildren and students to honor by our example, as we remember. With Gratitude.

The song in choral version with lyrics: https://youtu.be/NkKEynoTwp8

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.

John McCrae’s touching poem “In Flanders Fields” memorializes the April 1915 battle in Belgium’s Ypres salient.

In the fall of 2015, Legion Magazine and Leonard Cohen released a video to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Leonard Cohen. Legion Magazine · Oct 22, 2015. If you’ve never heard this poem, and–even if you have–I encourage you to take 1 minute and 47 seconds to listen to the stirring recitation of the complete poem by the late, great Leonard Cohen, linked at the end of this column. Watch and Listen Here: YouTube. https://youtu.be/cKoJvHcMLfc

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