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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Today Is A Day Of Remembrance

It is the 20-month anniversary of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that smashed the northeastern coast of Japan.

It's also Remembrance Day - November 11, 2012 - here in Canada...  a day in which we honor the brave men and women who gave their lives in battle - not necessarily for their own country, but rather to help save lives in other countries.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
We remember these people by wearing a poppy pin. We honor them by recalling a poem written during the first world war (incorrectly called the Great War - there's nothing great about war), by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae who wrote it on May 3, 1915.

Called 'In Flander's Fields', McCrae wrote it after the funeral of his friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer who dies in the 2nd Battle of Ypres.

The red poppies grew over the graves of the fallen soldiers. Commonwealth countries wear the poppy as a sign of respect and a hope of 'never again'.

We aren't there yet.

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.

I hate that second verse. It gives me the shivers to hear their voice.

We also have the image on of the poppy on a special 2004 Canadian quarter ($0.25-cent piece).

On our $10-bill, we have the In Flander's Field poem on the bottom left corner of the reverse of the bill. I am unsure if this will continue, as Canada is in the process of changing its paper money to a plastic polymer that not only makes it a bitch to counterfeit, but it lasts longer than standard paper... it can be washed accidentally in a washing machine - Lest we forget -  but may not be able to handle a dryer, as the heat might melt it. I guess I will find out soon enough.

When I was in high school, my plan was to go into the Canadian Forces, as I didn't think I would get into university or college.. and seven years later after graduating from both educational institutions thoughts of the armed forces were the farthest from my mind as I joined the Toronto Star newspaper as a journalist and four months later flew to Japan as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

I probably wouldn't have got into the 'army' anyways. While I admit I could have used the discipline, my crappy eyesight might have kept them from taking me.

My wife and son are going to Guelph, Ontario tomorrow to visit her mom and step-dad - which is where Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was born. I've driven by his house... stopped and looked... but I have to drive away quickly. Too emotional. I'm not going tomorrow, and will instead be by myself.

Why? Because...

Every November 11, a mere three days after my birthday, I get all misty eyed thinking about that damn poem and the people it represents, and I do not forget their sacrifice.

Andrew Joseph

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