In Canada, every November 11 on Remembrance Day, it’s our custom to wear poppies on our lapels. At 11 a.m. we observe a minute of silence. In elementary school we were instructed to spend that minute thinking about all those who died during the major wars in which our nation participated (WWI, WWII, Korea) and I have done this faithfully every year since.
Each of the books in my Music Box series takes place in the aftermath of a war — WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam (the third and fourth books are yet to be completed). I’ve always had the utmost respect for members of our armed forces and have never forgotten the sacrifices they’ve made, even though these wars occurred before I was born. The numbers of young men we lost in the world wars was staggering. I often think about their families—especially parents who lost all their sons at once—and I think about the soldiers who came home and had to deal with painful memories as they carried on with their lives.
There are some people who object to Remembrance Day, thinking we are glorifying war. They couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a day to remember the tragedy of war and to thank those who risked or gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy today. There’s an old saying – “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
In elementary school we all learned the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written during WWI by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. It refers to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers, and this is why we wear poppies to this day. The poem always touches me, no matter how many times I read it.
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.