“In Flanders Fields”

The three-day Memorial Day weekend is all about relaxing, having fun, maybe a barbecue with family and friends and hopefully watching veterans leading a Memorial Day Parade.

I wonder how many of us know the significance of the poppy? My grandfather served in France during WWI. When he was gassed, he returned to the states and was sent to a hospital in Texas.

My grandfather used to tell me stories about his WWI days. Of course, looking back, I wish I had listened more carefully and asked more questions. I distinctly remember him saying that when he returned to the states, he literally wanted to kiss the ground.


My grandfather in the 1920s

My grandfather was born in January 1899. After the war, he settled in NJ and lived there well into his nineties. Through the years he wrote me many long letters, all typed out using an old typewriter. A few of the keys would “jump.” Every single one of his 3 to 4 page letters would include stories, local and world current events, a short or long poem and a riddle or joke. He lived by himself and watched Benny Hill every night–he loved the “off-color” skits. He also watched The Three Stooges. He thought both shows were riotous.

Not too long ago, I was going through a box of old letters and came across one he sent me just before Memorial Day in 1984.

“In Flanders Fields”

by John McCrae, May 1915

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.

John McCrae, a Canadian, was a military doctor. It is believed he wrote the draft for his famous poem on the evening of May 2, 1915 in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium.

This is where blood-red poppies growing upon the graves in the burial ground–one was the grave of his friend–inspired McCrae to write the poem.

The questions I would ask now!!!!

Don’t forget to thank a veteran this weekend! Without them, where would we be? And if you ever have the opportunity, visit Flanders during poppy season.




6 thoughts on ““In Flanders Fields”

  1. Thank you, Sue, to this loving tribute to your very special grandfather and though I have read of the poppies, the story is so very poignant…never to be forgotten.

    P.S. my understanding, it was the soldiers boots that stirred the ground where fallow seeds had lain…until the days when bodies lay. The blood red poppies bloomed from then on.

  2. I remember when we used to be able to buy a paper poppy from veterans for Memorial Day.

    They don’t do that any more.

    It used to be Decoration Day to honor Civil War Vets. But after WWI it was changed to honor all of the men and women who died in service to our country. This sets it apart from Veterans Day.

    The poppies came from Moina Michael of the YWCA who in 1918 wore a poppy on her lapel and gave out two dozen more when she attended a conference. After that the American Legion adopted the symbol in 1921.

  3. Thank you Sue. It’s good to be reminded why there is a Memorial Day. To remember all those brave men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. As the saying goes “Freedom really isn’t free”. I often think of how very blessed I am to live in America. By the way…your grandfather was quite handsome!

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