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   May 26

On this Memorial Day take a Visit to the Famous Flander’s Fields Here!

Flander feild marker with poem on it

Let us recall this day and its purpose first by reminding you of one of the most celebrated poems of war, youth too soon ended and of the flower that evokes it all, the blood-red poppy.

In Flanders Field by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D. Canadian Army (1872-1918).

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row, That marks 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.

When I was a boy growing up in Illinois in the late ‘forties and ‘fifties, every school child was expected to take a few paper poppies (made so we knew by wounded and maimed U.S. Vets) and collect some pennies for them from friends and neighbors who never needed to be reminded of what we were doing or why they should contribute, even if it was the widow’s mite. And if it were the widow or mother with a gold star always in the front window, she responded with exultation and alacrity, hugging her student visitor, and tears would soon be shed. While you didn’t comprehend why, you soon found yourself with tears, too — and the adults called you a “good boy” and always looked into your eyes as they said so.

21 in Flanders fields in the midst of war.

I made my first trip to Europe, to the France I was destined to love deeply, not least for her wounds and too frequent miseries; the year was 1967. Vietnam was on the world’s agenda, rending the people and the nations. On this trip I (unlike all my traveling companions who had very different locales on their itinerary) decided to go, taking a bus tour to Flanders fields. I had helped distribute the paper poppies for many years; I knew the famous poem, and I was curious to see what the vestiges of carnage and military butchery looked like.

But I little knew the power of these fields and of the palpable spirit of this place, the spirit that spoke to you, and at once: “Remember, we are your dear departed, your brothers, your fathers, your young boisterous uncles too soon taken; the cheerful postboy and the brilliant medical student. We are here, all of us,in our millions; we wish you to understand the profundity of this place, the purpose of this place, the solemnity of this place… and the gripping tale, certain to impress you, that we tell in our very life’s blood.

This is a place of unsettled ghosts, of too much loss, too much death, too many to remember and an urgent need never to forget a single one.

Then of a sudden the compelling insistence of this hallowed place made itself known to you. Tourists like you, babbling of places where they had found good values and other places where they had not; these tourists now saw the majesty of unending death, too soon, by too many… and their very words stopped… as they saw around them on every side the unmitigated panoply of death…

Our vehicle went slowly through these fields where death had staked its boundless claims, for more limbs, for more blood, for more and still more fragile bodies and of a world of plans, expectations, destinies, ended right here…

You feel all at this tragic place… and are quiet like your fellow travelers; not one saying a single word… the only sound the wheels of your vehicle, now a cortege, and the tears falling fast… while complete strangers take hold of their neighbor’s hand and squeeze; it is all any of us can do… and we all want the warmth of life and seek it now.

What I learned that day, what you must know, is the immensity of these places of eternal rest for a generation. Here and at many similar places this generation abides for the ages, these fields profoundly marked with pristine graves and simple headstones, that show the last day of their life, the first day of their oblivion.

You think, you hope that the end is nigh, but you cannot say so. You cannot say anything; your vehicle goes slowly, the better for you to understand the awe of this place… and your spirit is sorely troubled and challenged.

And still your vehicle rides through more of the unending graves, each for a life unseasonably, unnaturally ended… and one word rises before you and the other travelers: why? What could have justified so much death and confusion, so much ended too soon, the promise of so many lives, and these so young? Why?

After several hours, your tour is ended… but the graves of Flanders fields are not at an end. They are, at tour’s end, what they were at tour’s beginning: a metropolis of the dead, where the great numbers you see are only a tiny fraction of the unimaginable totality.

And at last, from so much pain, so palpable and pathetic, comes a valiant thought. That the acres of Flanders fields, at least in part, are the story of the greatest gift of all, to die for the good of all, to give your life so that the lives of untold others can be lived fully, happily…. having received from these dead their lives, their prosperities, everything that makes life worth living.

Since the inception of our great republic wars, insurrections, riots, uprisings have punctuated our national existence. And each has yielded a generous quota of good people who died that America and all Americans might live.

The danger, my fellow countrymen, is that any part of us, any one of us should live without blessed remembrance and heartfelt gratitude to the dead… all of them expired in the unending service of the nation, our allies, and the troubled planet we aim to sooth and uplift. Every great cause, every event within these causes has called upon the best among us… and has resulted in the greatest sacrifice of all, for so many.

What the dead of Flanders fields and of all America’s far-flung endeavors want is what only we living can give. And that is our full love and devotion to such as these. We can only be fulfilled by giving it… which is what we do today, and gladly so. It is little enough for the sublime greatness of their gift to us.

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About The Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Get a FREE Worldprofit Associate membership at: Dr. Lant is also a syndicated writer and author of 19 best-selling business books.

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