Sunday, May 29, 2011

Musings on Memorial Day, 2011

Although I normally associate John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" with Remembrance Day in Canada (where I grew up) in November, Memorial Day seems an apt day to read it once more. 

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, May 1915

 I visited a local cemetery (Riverview, in SW Portland) where there is a small area for those who served during the Spanish-American War, which occurred in 1898.  This being Memorial Day, the graves were decorated with small American flags.  Not all who are buried here died during the war, but served in that conflict. 

It is easy for us to remember those who died in the more recent conflicts, and for my generation it is our friends, brothers and cousins who were lost during the Vietnam conflict.  The Spanish-American war is one of those smaller skirmishes that lasted less than a year and focused mostly on Spanish holdings in Cuba and The Phillipines.  As a reminder that our National Guard has been mobilized for conflicts much earlier than our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it was in 1898.  Most notable about the Spanish-American War was the sinking of the battleship USS Maine, and Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill.  It also signified the end of Spain's empire. 

As I wandered between the rows of gravestones, I could read the names of each who fought.  Some perished, and others returned home to resume their lives...though one cannot help but wonder how they may have been transformed though the experience.  One cannot escape the same question for those of our current generation.

I uttered a "thank you" to all of those buried here...and to all who served in other those who lay in the fields of Flanders.

(For related Memorial Day Musings, you can visit

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