Veterans’ Day (aka Rememberance Day)

For those who are interested, a poem. One that every Canadian kid probably read and memorized in grade school:

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.

– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
– Canadian Army






39 replies
  1. 1
    rachel says:

    And play The Flowers of the Forest.

  2. 2
    Adam says:

    One of my favorites…

    Wilfred Owen

    Dulce Et Decorum Est

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

    GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
    Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

  3. 3
    qwerty42 says:

    The Great War as it was then called is not remembered so well by folks in the states. Our entry was late (in All Quiet on the Western Front there is the event of the German patrol encountering Americans for the first time), our casualties do not approach those of France, the UK, Germany, and proportionally, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. We cannot even be sure of losses on the Eastern Front or in Africa.
    For those who wish to read more about this, see Adam Gopnik’s "The Big One", from The New Yorker. He does not review Martin Gilbert’s The First World War (which would have benefited from a better editing), but Gilbert does discuss the enormous human dimension of the war (he includes where many of these soldiers and civilians will later end up: Capt Harry Truman of battery D will become the US President). He grew up (as did his generation) with the reminders of that war seemingly everywhere (Bruce Catton mentions something like this about the Civil War veterans in Mr Lincoln’s Army). These were the grim reminders that would affect European politics for decades, perhaps most of the 20th Century. And the new world as well: the great concern about "another Munich" can cause one to forget "another Sarajevo".

  4. 4
    douglasfactors says:

    Aftermath
    by Siegfried Sassoon

    Have you forgotten yet? …
    For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
    Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
    And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
    Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
    Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
    But the past is just the same – and War’s a bloody game …
    Have you forgotten yet? …
    Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

    Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz –

    The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
    Do you remember the rats; and the stench
    of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench –

    And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
    Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"

    Do you remember the hour of din before the attack –

    And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you
    As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
    Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
    With dying eyes and lolling heads – those ashen-grey
    Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

    Have you forgotten yet? …
    Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

  5. 5
    eyeball says:

    90th anniversary of Armistice Day today.

    On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,

    "The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells"

    finally ceased on the Western Front.

    .. that line, by Owen, could apply to …

    Wingnutistan!

    The Great War was the first mass democratizing era in US history. WW2 was the second. This election is the third.

  6. 6
    KC says:

    We had to memorize a poem every week in seventh grade English class. I memorized In Flanders Fields, Dulce et Decorum Est, and The Man He Killed, among others.

    We had an opportunity several years ago to have a veteran of the Great War come speak at our school, but he wound up not coming. Probably passed away now. Hell of a thing to miss.

    I should go find Colonel Potter’s salute to his lost comrades from M*A*S*H. "Well boys, we fought The War To End All Wars – and then we fought another …"

    KC

  7. 7
    Vlad says:

    My parents always used to sing me this one when I was little: Link.

  8. 8
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    e.e. cummings

    my sweet old etcetera
    aunt lucy during the recent

    war could and what
    is more did tell you just
    what everybody was fighting

    for,
    my sister

    isabel created hundreds
    (and
    hundreds) of socks not to
    mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

    etcetera wristers etcetera, my

    mother hoped that

    i would die etcetera
    bravely of course my father used
    to become hoarse talking about how it was
    a privilege and if only he
    could meanwhile my

    self etcetera lay quietly
    in the deep mud et

    cetera
    (dreaming,
    et
    cetera, of
    Your smile
    eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

  9. 9
    Krista says:

    Thanks for posting that, Michael. I just got back from the Remembrance Day ceremonies at our local cenotaph. I too, had memorized that poem in elementary school. I never really understood it until I was older, though.

    And it never really hit home for me until I visited Vimy Ridge, and saw row after row after row of graves, as far as the eye could see, most of them the graves of 18, 19 and 20-year olds.

    They were just kids, really. And they were so eager to serve King and country that a lot of them lied about their age. Some of them were really only 15, 16 years old.

    To put it in perspective, the population of our entire country in 1914 was a little over 7,800,000. 620,000 troops were mobilized. 67,000 died.

    Almost 1% of our entire population died in that war. That would be like almost 3 million American troops dying in Iraq. I’m not mentioning this to downplay your many losses in the wars your country has fought, but simply to give you an idea of how incredibly staggering World War I was to us and to our country. (And compared to Russia, we got off damned easy.)

  10. 10
    kgb says:

    I remember learning this poem in eighth grade. It brings back good memories. I really didn’t understand it at the time though! It means so much more to me now. Thanks Mrs. Anderson!

  11. 11
    Cris v.3.1 says:

    I still like to think of it as Armistice Day. While I’d like to justify this fondness with Mr. Vonnegut’s eloquent words, the real fact of the matter is that I was knocked out of the first round of the state spelling bee with the word "armistice."

  12. 12
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    @Krista:
    In Vietnam, the average age was nineteen. Nineteen. As a twenty-our-year-old Old Guy and a senior NCO I was found fit to command a squad. War, good God ya’ll.

  13. 13
    canuckistani says:

    My favourite war poem, also by Wilfred Owen:

    The Parable of the Young Man and the Old

    So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
    And took the fire with him, and a knife.
    And as they sojourned, both of them together,
    Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
    Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
    But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
    And builded parapets the trenches there,
    And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
    When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
    Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
    Neither do anything to him. Behold,
    A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
    Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
    But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

  14. 14
    Lizzy L says:

    I was required to memorize "In Flanders Fields" when I was in 4th grade in a New York public school, and I can recite it to this day, over 50 years later. But it glorifies a stupid, useless, monumentally brutal conflict which was frequently directed (on the general staff level) by egotistical clueless morons. Most Americans know more about WW II: imagine Omaha Beach multiplied by 1000 and happening everywhere you look, and remember that penicillin, the first antibiotic, was not produced until the 1940s. "Take up our quarrel with the foe…" — screw that. I’m for beating swords into plowshares.

    And please, don’t bring up Hitler or Pearl Harbor. These are not examples which prove that militarism is good.

    Cranky this morning. Probably rude. I’m sorry. A close study of WW I makes one very cranky.

  15. 15
    searp says:

    Nobody who goes to war for the first time really understands what will be asked; nobody who returns from war is the same person.

    My heart goes out to all of them, past and present.

  16. 16
    Michael D. says:

    @Krista:

    but simply to give you an idea of how incredibly staggering World War I was to us and to our country

    You know, I was listening to a news segment once, probably on NPR. The reason that more troops in Iraq are alive is – and I know this is obvious – the quality of medical care. In WWs I and II, when you were injured, you got morphine (well, in “II” anyway, not sure about “I”, i’m just assuming) so if you got your arm blown off, you were basically a dead man. You bled to death. On morphine.

    Looking at some of the wounded vets on TV today, I know that A LOT of them would be dead from those injuries if they got them back then.

    Thank goodness for science.

  17. 17
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    Two others by Sassoon:
     

    Base Details

     
    If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
    I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
    And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
    You’d see me with my puffy, petulant face,
    Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
    Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
    I’d say — ‘I used to know his father well;
    Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
    And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
    I’d toddle safely home and die — in bed.
     
    And my favorite:
     
    The General
     
    "Good-morning, good-morning!" the General said
    When we met him last week on our way to the line.
    Now the men that he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
    And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
    "He’s a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
    As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
     
    But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
     

  18. 18
    Liz says:

    My favorite is a song: No Man’s Land, by Eric Bogle

    Well, how’d you do, Private Willie McBride,
    D’you mind if I sit down down here by your graveside?
    I’ll rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
    Been walking all day, Lord, and I’m nearly done.
    I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
    When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
    I hope you died quick and I hope you died "clean,"
    Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

    CHORUS:
    Did they beat the drum slowly, did they sound the fife lowly?
    Did the rifles fire o’er ye as they lowered ye down?
    Did the bugles sing "The Last Post" in chorus?
    Did the pipes play the "Floors1 O’ The Forest"?

    And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
    In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
    And, though you died back in 1916,
    To that loyal heart are you forever nineteen?
    Or are you a stranger, without even a name,
    Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
    In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
    And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

    Well, the sun’s shining down on these green fields of France;
    The warm wind blows gently, the red poppies dance.
    The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
    No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
    But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land;
    The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
    To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.
    And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

    And I can’t help but wonder now, Willie McBride,
    Do all those who lie here know why they died?
    Did you really believe them when they told you "the cause?"
    Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
    Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
    The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
    For Willie McBride, it’s all happened again,
    And again, and again, and again, and again.

  19. 19
    Mike says:

    And there’s always the last scene of Blackadder.

  20. 20
    Blue Raven says:

    The poems and song are all lovely. That said, this is not Memorial Day. Today is for the living. Most of the stuff that’s been posted here focuses on the dead. Are there no trenchant works that speak of the survivors other than "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"?

  21. 21
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    Well, speaking of the living…

    I am writing from a hospital waiting room waiting for my first grandchild to be born. It’s been a long day and a half, but it looks as though she will be born on Veteran’s Day.

    My son likes the symmetry of the date – 11/11 – and I like the fact that she may be celebrating her birthday on a day that the world celebrated peace.

  22. 22
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    That said, this is not Memorial Day. Today is for the living.

    Welcome to yet another edition in our infinite series, America Is Not The Center Of The World.

  23. 23
    esblofeld says:

    Dick Cheney cynically mined that poem during a speech, using the words "crosses row on row" to describe what he sees when he flies low over Arlington by helicopter. Except, of course, Arlington doesn’t have crosses for headstones.

    Geopolitically unimportant, but disturbing.

  24. 24
    libarbarian says:

    @Adam,

    Yeah,

    Watch the old PBS "Great War" special to see and hear a lot more of Owen and Sassoon.

  25. 25
    Dano says:

    I attended a funeral this past Friday in Artesia, CA and a
    full military honors burial at Cypress Forest Lawn for Luis Palacios, KIA in Vietnam over 40 years ago. Our unit was represented by my commanding officer, Lt Col Bill Negron and platoon Corpsman, Mac Mecham. Three others’ remains were also recovered and will have their burial at Arlington National Cemetery in the Spring of ’09. Welcome home, brothers!

    Marine killed in Vietnam 40 years ago gets a final salute as his remains are buried in Cypress
    Back home

    Lance Cpl. Luis Palacios, who died in a helicopter crash, is honored with a full military burial. A U.S. search team recently recovered his remains, which were identified through DNA.
    By Raja Abdulrahim
    November 9, 2008
    Yolanda Montiel was only 10 years old when her older brother Luis Palacios was killed in Vietnam. Her memories of him are few but endearing, like the time he bought her a yellow hat or when he gave her piggyback rides.

    Over the years, Yolanda’s siblings and her late mother would tell her stories about Luis, which included the nickname he gave her.

    "I didn’t remember who used to call me rag doll," she said, "and it was him."

    The day the family learned that Luis had been killed, a relative came to Yolanda’s school to pick her up and on the way home tried to explain death.

    The 19-year-old Marine was on a rescue mission on June 6, 1968, when his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and crashed. Lance Cpl. Luis Palacios was one of four passengers on the downed aircraft presumed dead but whose bodies were not found.

    Then, in early September, Yolanda’s family received the news they had been waiting for for 40 years: a U.S. search team had found some of Luis’ remains. He was identified through a DNA sample that Yolanda had given to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command more than a decade earlier.

    Last week, Luis’ remains were returned to California.

    On Thursday, his family held a viewing at a funeral home in Bellflower. Yolanda, 51, walked slowly toward the open casket, partially draped by a U.S. flag. Inside lay a dress-blue Marine uniform and black rosary beads. Yolanda placed her hand on the gold buttons of the suit coat, decorated with four medals, including the Purple Heart and Vietnam Service Medal.

    Underneath was all that remained of her brother: a tooth and an arm bone.

    Earlier in the day, Yolanda held the bone that had been placed in a sealed plastic bag. She kissed it and told her brother she loved him.

    "I definitely wanted to see the remains," she said. "I wanted to hold them. I wanted to say goodbye, because that’s Luis."

    Since his death, the lives of his nine brothers and sisters have moved on. They had children and grandchildren of their own. They mourned the deaths of their parents.

    But their memories of Luis, who grew up in South Los Angeles, remained frozen in the ’60s. They recalled a shy, teenage boy with a baby face and dark eyes who was eager to join the Marines because a brother and a brother-in-law already had enlisted.

    "Mom, if you only understood I need to do this for myself," Martha Chavez, his oldest step-sister, remembered him pleading with their mother.

    In 1968, the family held a memorial ceremony for Luis at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Cypress, where a nameplate was laid for him.

    "It was like, ‘Why are we doing this when there is nobody there?’ " Chavez remembers thinking at the time.

    But the recovery of Luis’ remains has made his family members feel like they are experiencing his death all over again.

    "It’s like reliving the ceremony," said stepsister Virginia Poyorena-Govea, 66.

    "But we’re doing it right this time," Yolanda said.

    Luis was given a full military burial Friday at Forest Lawn in Cypress that was attended by Marines and dozens of Vietnam veterans motorcycle club members. As a member of the Patriot Guard Riders lowered a large black-and-white MIA/POW flag in the direction of the casket, seven Marines fired a volley of three shots into the air.

    Luis was the last missing Marine to return home from retired Col. Bill Negron’s 1st Battalion, 4th Marines’ Charlie Company. Of the company’s 140 members, three were still missing at the end of the war.

    Negron drove all night from Arizona to attend Luis’ funeral. He said it was a relief to finally have all his men accounted for.

    Negron said he has visited the helicopter crash site — an area he described as being like the rolling hills of Appalachia mixed in with lush jungle terrain — to pay his respects.

    "If I was going to spend 40 years [away] from my family, that’s not a bad place to be," he said. "But it’s better here."

    Luis’ father, Pete Sr., used to tell his children he wanted to be buried near his son in Vietnam. But Yolanda told him that was impossible. When he passed away in 1984, he was buried at Forest Lawn.

    Luis’ remains were buried under a pine tree, a few feet from his father.

    Abdulrahim is a Times staff writer.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/lo.....7566.story

  26. 26
    mellowjohn says:

    my favorite from world war I is something written by rudyard kipling in his "epitaphs on the war" after his son was killed on the western front:

    ‘If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.’

  27. 27
    J says:

    From Lawrence Binyon’s the Fallen:

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

  28. 28
    OriGuy says:

    Another Eric Bogle song, as performed by The Pogues:

    And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda Be prepared to shed a few tears.

    Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
    And I lived the free life of the rover.
    From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback,
    Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
    Then in 1915, my country said, "Son,
    It’s time you stop ramblin’, there’s work to be done."
    So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun,
    And they marched me away to the war.

    And the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
    As the ship pulled away from the quay,
    And amidst all the cheers, the flag waving, and tears,
    We sailed off for Gallipoli.
    And how well I remember that terrible day,
    How our blood stained the sand and the water;
    And of how in that hell that they call Suvla Bay
    We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
    Johnny Turk, he was waitin’, he primed himself well;
    He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shell —
    And in five minutes flat, he’d blown us all to hell,
    Nearly blew us right back to Australia.
    But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
    When we stopped to bury our slain,
    Well, we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
    Then we started all over again.
    And those that were left, well, we tried to survive
    In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
    And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
    Though around me the corpses piled higher.
    Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
    And when I woke up in me hospital bed
    And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead —
    Never knew there was worse things than dying.
    For I’ll go no more "Waltzing Matilda,"
    All around the green bush far and free —
    To hump tents and pegs, a man needs both legs,
    No more "Waltzing Matilda" for me.
    So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
    And they shipped us back home to Australia.
    The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
    Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
    And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay,
    I looked at the place where me legs used to be,
    And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me,
    To grieve, to mourn and to pity.
    But the band played "Waltzing Matilda,"
    As they carried us down the gangway,
    But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared,
    Then they turned all their faces away.
    And so now every April, I sit on my porch
    And I watch the parade pass before me.
    And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
    Reviving old dreams of past glory,
    And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
    They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war
    And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
    And I ask meself the same question.
    But the band plays "Waltzing Matilda,"
    And the old men still answer the call,
    But as year follows year, more old men disappear
    Someday, no one will march there at all.
    Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda.
    Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
    And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the billabong,
    Who’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?

  29. 29
    qwerty42 says:

    Thomas Hardy actually published this in 1902, but it seems appropriate, especially on Armistice Day (as it was called when I was growing up)

    The Man He Killed
    by Thomas Hardy

    Had he and I but met
    By some old ancient inn,
    We should have set us down to wet
    Right many a nipperkin!
    But ranged as infantry,
    And staring face to face,
    I shot at him as he at me,
    And killed him in his place.

    I shot him dead because–
    Because he was my foe,
    Just so: my foe of course he was;
    That’s clear enough; although

    He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
    Off-hand like–just as I–
    Was out of work–had sold his traps–
    No other reason why.

    Yes; quaint and curious war is!
    You shoot a fellow down
    You’d treat, if met where any bar is,
    Or help to half a crown.

  30. 30
    Caravelle says:

    The reason that more troops in Iraq are alive is – and I know this is obvious – the quality of medical care. In WWs I and II, when you were injured, you got morphine (well, in “II” anyway, not sure about “I”, i’m just assuming) so if you got your arm blown off, you were basically a dead man. You bled to death. On morphine.

    Hum. That’s a small, contributing reason but the main one is that there are a lot, lot, lot fewer soldiers in Iraq than there were in WWI.
    150 000 US personnel in Iraq according to Wikipedia, even multiplying by 5 you don’t get close to the 60 million Europe mobilized between 1914 and 1918 (still according to Wikipedia).

    That said, this is not Memorial Day. Today is for the living.

    Welcome to yet another edition in our infinite series, America Is Not The Center Of The World.

    QFT

  31. 31
    Caravelle says:

    From "And the Band played Waltzing Matilda :

    But as year follows year, more old men disappear
    Someday, no one will march there at all.

    That’s happened this year in France. Next year or the one before next there’ll probably be no-one left at all… :-/

    Be prepared to shed a few tears.

    I see your "And the band played Waltzing Matilda" and raise you Atatürk on the ANZAC Memorial :

    "Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours… you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well."

  32. 32
    J says:

    This cartoon by Steve Bell, inspired by the Lawrence Binyon poem I quoted above, is about as telling a depiction of Bush in all his loathsomeness as I’ve ever seen.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/cart.....36,00.html

  33. 33
    wrye says:

    For me, I always remember one song from Billy Bishop Goes to War:

    The statues are old now
    And they’re fading fast
    Something big must have happened
    Way in the past
    The names are so faded
    You can hardly see.
    But the faces are always young to me.

    Friends
    aint s’posed to die
    ‘Til they’re old
    And friends
    aint s’posed to die
    In pain
    No one should die alone
    When he’s only twenty one
    And living
    Shouldn’t make you feel ashamed.

  34. 34
    FDRLincoln says:

    They disembarked in 45
    And no one spoke and no one smiled
    there were too many spaces in the line
    and gathered at the cenotaph
    all agreed with hand on heart
    to sheathe the sacrificial knives

    but now
    she stands upon Southhampton Dock
    with her hankerchief
    and her summer frock
    clings to her wet body in the rain
    in quiet desperation
    knuckles white upon the slippery reins
    she bravely waves the boys good bye again

    but still the dark stain
    spreads between their shoulder blades
    a mute reminder
    of the poppy fields and graves
    when the fight was over
    we spent what they had made
    but in the bottom of our hearts
    we felt the final cut

    ——Roger Waters

  35. 35
    Anne Elk (Miss) says:

    Michael, thanks for posting this, especially with the picture of the poppy. Last year, we visited Belgium and took the Flanders Fields guided tour. That poem takes on a much deeper meaning when you’ve actually seen the real poppies growing all over the old battlefields. We were the only Americans in our small group – all the others were either Canadian, British, New Zealand(ers?)(ites?) or Australian. Many of the monuments and memorials had books for visitors to sign – again, very few Americans represented and tons of Brits or former members of the Empire. Almost all the sites had dozens of plastic poppy wreaths that had usually been sent by school classes or groups (again, British and empire; occasionally German), probably as part of their lessons about the war. The day really made me realize how little most Americans know and are taught about WWI — and how that lack of knowledge impacts our current views and beliefs, particularly in regards to Europe. It’s really easy to mock Europeans for being "weak" or "appeasers" until you stand at the monuments or cemeteries and see literally tens of thousands of names of the dead. Yeah, those million dead Frenchmen sure were "surrender monkeys", weren’t they? More men would be killed in one day’s battle than the US has lost in all of Iraq so far.
    If anyone’s ever in Bruges, I highly recommend the tour. And the Teaching Company’s WWI lecture series is also very good.

  36. 36
    Batocchio says:

    I’ve used Wilfred Owen before, and went with Siegfried Sassoon this year. Some great selections upthread. Eric Bogle is great.

  37. 37
    slightly_peeved says:

    In Vietnam, the average age was nineteen. Nineteen.

    Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing out parade at Puckapunyal,
    (1t was long march from cadets).
    The Sixth Battalion was the next to tour and it was me who drew the card…
    We did Canungra and Shoalwater before we left.

    And Townsville lined the footpath as we marched down to the quay;
    This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean;
    And there’s me in my slouch hat, with my SLR and greens…
    God help me, I was only nineteen.

    From Vung Tau riding Chinooks to the dust at Nui Dat,
    I’d been in and out of choppers now for months.
    But we made our tents a home, VB and pin-ups on the lockers,
    and an Asian orange sunset through the scrub.

    And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
    And night time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
    And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
    God help me, I was only nineteen.

    A four week operation, when each step could mean your last one on two legs:
    it was a war within yourself.
    But you wouldn’t let your mates down ’til they had you dusted off,
    so you closed your eyes and thought about something else.

    Then someone yelled out "Contact"’, and the bloke behind me swore.
    We hooked in there for hours, then a God almighty roar;
    Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon: –
    God help me, he was going home in June.

    1 can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
    on a thirty-six hour rec. leave in Vung Tau.
    And I can still hear Frankie lying screaming in the jungle.
    ‘Till the morphine came and killed the bloody row

    And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears,
    and stories that my father told me never seemed quite real
    I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel…
    God help me, I was only nineteen.

    And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
    And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
    And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
    God help me,
    I was only nineteen.

    I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green)
    John Schumann

  38. 38
    THeDRiFTeR says:

    "In Flanders Fields the poppies grow "…

    you big homosexual you!

  39. 39
    Ryan says:

    Thanks for posting this. WWI gets very little coverage here, but we often forget what a transformative period it was for the world. It directly led to my family coming to this country. My Great Grandfather was an Irishman who lied about his age to join the British army to escape poverty at home. My Great Grandmother was a Pole whose village was annihilated off the map and became a refugee. The met in France and decided to come to America to get away from all of that. Pop pretty much refused to ever talk about his service.

    I went to the Imperial War Museum in London a few years ago while I was there and their trench exhibit still gives me nightmares.

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