Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans' Day 2005

That's Arlington National Cemetery on the right. All Americans should visit Arlington at least once in their lives.

On this day for honoring veterans, I submit once again this, my favorite poem about war and its cost:

In Flanders Fields

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.
"In Flanders Fields" is by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician who served in World War I. McCrae was no stranger to the real suffering of soldiers wounded in battle. According to the Arlington National Cemetery web site:

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

The story behind McCrae's famous poem is a must-read. It is here.

Sherman was surely right when he said "war is hell." I am grateful to live in a democracy, where the "dog of war" is chained. Ideally, in a democracy the decision to go to war is made only after considerable, passionate debate and is always subject to the oversight of the people.

I am also grateful beyond words to those who serve. May we all support them, before, during, and after the battle; and may God bless them, now and forever.

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