Dear Readers: Many of you will be enjoying your Memorial Day weekend with barbecues and picnics, but we hope you will also remember the purpose behind the observance: a day to remember those servicemen and women who died serving their country. Please consider taking the time to visit a veterans hospital or military cemetery and pay your respects. And if you have a flag, it is appropriate to display it at half-staff until noon.
”Last Monday in May”
By John T. Bird of Birmingham, Ala.
We pause to remember those who died
with so much courage
so much pride.
They’ll never come back
but memories endure
to remind us of freedom: fragile, pure.
We’re worthy of their sacrifice
if we pause each day
not just on the last Monday in May.
Dear Annie: About five or six years ago, you printed a column about why we hand out poppies on Memorial Day. It had something to do with a poem from the first World War. At the time, I wasn’t that interested (sorry), but now that I have grandchildren old enough to understand history, I want them to have this information. Would you reprint it? — Not a History Teacher in Texas
Dear Not: Happy to do it. This poem is quite famous and used to be well known in the classroom, but we don’t know whether it is still being taught as often as it once was. If not, we think it deserves to be resuscitated.
”In Flanders Field” was written in 1915 by Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., a Canadian who served as a surgeon in the Great War. He wrote it after witnessing the death of a friend at Ypres, Belgium. McCrae died in France in 1918, at the age of 46, from pneumonia, an all-too-common battlefield ailment.
”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.
Inspired by McCrae’s poem, an American woman, Moina Michael, wore poppies to honor the war dead. She also began selling poppies to raise money for the disabled veterans of the Great War. This idea spread to France and England and then to Canada and the U.S, where it is still a tradition on Memorial Day.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.