Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Because I spotlighted a friend from the north yesterday, and because it's Memorial Day Weekend and one of my favorite poems speaks to our responsibility to always remember the sacrifices others make for our freedoms and to act to continue to protect them, I'm spotlighting that work of another Canadian here today.

Lt. Col. John Alexander McCrae was a Canadian physician serving with the 1st Field Artillery Brigade of the Canadian Army during World War I. The battle at the Ypres salient was fought to prevent German troops from overrunning that area of Belgium. The Allied troops were in a terribly dangerous position, and seventeen hellish days of battle resulted in high casualties and injuries that then-Major McCrae had to treat. After witnessing the death of a young friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer, and presiding over his funeral service due to the absence of a chaplain, Dr. McCrae sat on the back of an ambulance and spent twenty minutes of his precious rest time penning the fifteen lines that became one of the most famous poems of World War I. Although Dr. McCrae discarded the poem, a fellow officer rescued it and submitted it to London newspapers. The Spectator rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

Lest we forget:

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

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.


  1. Happy Memorial Day, Marsha. This is a good post, and a lovely poem that I hadn't heard before. I hope you are enjoying the weekend as you reflect on those who gave their lives for our freedom.

  2. That poem is one of my favorites. Happy Memorial Day!

  3. I can make myself cry by reading it out loud.

  4. Marsha,
    I memorized this poem when I was in 4th grade. At the time I didn't realize the full significance of it, it still touches me deeply when I read it. I have been going through my recently deceased mother's home, truly a labor of love and memories. I found my father's World War II uniform and his father's World War I uniform perfectly perserved. I'm proud of both of these wonderful men - thanks for posting this wonderful poem. Memorial Day has lost some of it's meaning. We need reminders that it is not just a 3 day weekend, a chance to fire up the grill or to hit the big sales at the mall. It is a sacred day to honor those who gave everything that we might continue to enjoy our freedoms!
    Happy Memorial Day!

  5. Wow, I can't believe he threw it away at first. Thanks for the great backstory.
    I posted info about my new Ribbon Box on my blog, it’s so neat! If you’d like to see details, please stop by!


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