There was an assembly at my kid’s school, yesterday morning. To mark Remembrance Day, the students laid wreaths, real-live soldiers spoke to them, two minutes of silence were observed.
Remembrance Day has always kicked me in the gut. Anything to do with the military, really. Watching families send their dads, moms, husbands, wives, sons, daughters off to foreign lands, knowing, accepting that they may not come back. Young people with stern haircuts, steeled jaws getting onto transport planes, staring off into the distance at things I can’t see. Flag draped coffins coming back. And even farther back, hearing stories from old men, who sat in muddy foxholes and froze and watched their friends get blown apart. Realizing that soon, there won’t be any of those old men to tell the stories.
I knew, going into the assembly, that I’d cry. I didn’t want to.
Things I thought about, in an effort not to cry:
1. I don’t begrudge the Royal Canadian Legion one cent of the money I have dropped into donation boxes for the poppies we have taken. I really don’t. But good gravy, we’ve been through a half dozen of the little plastic buggers
(image from here)
in the last week. Surely we can come up with a design that can remain affixed to a lapel for more than 60 seconds?
2. Those teenaged Cadets sure look innocent. Too bad my husband was one when he was a kid. And that I know what goes on at Cadet Camp.
3. I totally forgot that every year, the Legion ran an essay contest. And every year, I won. Right up to the national level. And at each level, there was a cash prize. And that cash prize was where I got a good portion of my high school drinking money. I’ve since drunk with the folks at the Legion, so I’m pretty sure they would have been cool with it.
But none of these thoughts worked.
It’s always “In Flanders Fields” that gets me. (For the background of the poem, please visit this site.)
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
It’s that last stanza: “To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.” It makes me think of the conflict dragging on in Afghanistan, of the roll of names that doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to end, the god damned futility of it all.
(photo is “In Flanders Fields” by xollob58)
If you have ever served in the military, if you have a family member who has left you behind to serve in the military, and if you’ve ever lost someone who served in the military –
Thank you. Thank you so much.