There are many solemn ways to remember and honor those who have died in service to our country. There is the tradition of Taps Across America. At 3:00 pm, local time, Americans pause and listen to the 24 notes of taps.
Another tradition involves the humble poppy flower. Since ancient times, the poppy has been a symbol of remembrance, death, and eternal sleep. More recently, following the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, poppies were the first flowers to grow on land devastated by battle.
The continual bombardment from war created a substantial disturbance in the soil of battlefields, bringing the poppy seeds to the surface. The nitrogen from the explosives used and lime from the shattered buildings then fertilized the poppy seeds. Hence, amidst the devastated land, the poppies grew.
Observing the proliferation of poppies where the dead had been buried in Flanders Fields during World War I, Colonel John McCrae, a surgeon with Canada’s First Brigade Artillery, was moved to write the poem, “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.
Actor James McEachin provides a special reading of “In Flanders Fields” at the 2017 Veterans Inaugural Ball: A Salute to Heroes.
From the Gettysburg Address: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Listen to James Earl Jones “Lincoln Portrait.”
Further Reading and Information
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (abrahamlincolnonline.org)
Red Poppy Flower Importance – All You Should Know | Source (sourcetacticalgear.com)
The Poppies of Flanders Fields (discoveringbelgium.com)
In Flanders Fields – Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (va.gov)
Thanks for this, Sue, especially the explanation of the poppies.
I love the overlap of poetry, legend, and science!