Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day here in the USA, a day where most people only know something is different because the banks and the schools are closed. I put my flag out this morning to honor the soldiers who have served and lived. I'm always a little self-conscious about the act of putting my flag out...but I do feel it is the appropriate thing to do, especially on a day like today.

We celebrate Memorial day as the day to honor fallen soldiers, but we don't pay much attention to the ones who survive the messes we put them in. I have tremendous respect for those who are willing to serve in harm's way, who work for terrible wages and who suffer the mental wars long after the physical ones desist. In our medical practice we deal with a population that is overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly over the age of 50...we have many veterans. Today we made a sign thanking them and put cookies out. It's the least we could do. I called one of our doctors, who was a Navy surgeon in Vietnam, and wished him well and thanked him for his service, he said it was the first time anyone had wished him a happy Veterans day.

I came across this poem today, written in 1915 by Canadian John McRae, a field surgeon during the second battle of Ypres salient, in WWI. He attended the allied wounded for 16 days...mainly French, English, Indian and Canadian troops but also Germans during this second, and very bloody, battle in Belgium. The American WWI cemetery in Belgium is named after the poem. I thought it appropriate for Veterans Day:

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
In Flanders fields.

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