For Veterans Day: We Pause To Read 'In Flanders Fields'
At Arlington National Cemetery on Sunday, President Obama expressed the nation's gratitude to its veterans.
"Whenever America has come under attack, you've risen to her defense," he said. "Whenever our freedoms have come under assault, you've responded with resolve. Time and again, at home and abroad, you and your families have sacrificed to protect that powerful promise that all of us hold so dear –- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
While Veterans Day was Sunday, today is the official federal holiday. If you'd like to send a message to a soldier currently serving in the U.S. military, you can post it on this White House webpage and the USO will deliver it.
And if you'd like to take a few more moments to reflect, as we have said before there's no more appropriate way than by reading In Flanders Fields, the poem written in May 1915 by Canadian military doctor, Maj. John M. McCrae, after he treated victims of a German chemical attack in Belgium. It inspired the use of red poppies as a symbol on Memorial Day in the U.S., and they're used in Great Britain on what's known there as Remembrance Day — Nov. 11.
Here are McCrae's words:
"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."
Correction at 2:45 p.m. ET: Our thanks to reader Joni Pepin, for suggesting in the comments thread that we were mistaken in saying that poppies were traditionally warn in the U.S. on Veterans Day. The Department of Veterans Affairs says that:
"The wearing of poppies in honor of America's war dead is traditionally done on Memorial Day, not Veterans Day. The practice of wearing of poppies takes its origin from the poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by John McCrae. For information on how to obtain poppies for use on Memorial Day, contact a veterans service organization, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) or The American Legion, as a number of veterans organizations distribute poppies annually on Memorial Day. You can find veterans groups in the Veterans Service Organization link on VA's Veterans Day web page. Veterans groups in your area can be found in your local phone book. Look in the yellow pages under "Veterans and Military Organizations" or a similar heading."
We've corrected the reference above.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.