Today is Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth of Nations (which includes Canada).
It is a solemn pause in the work week (I hesitate to call it a holiday) when the citizens of Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland remember the fallen generation of the Great War (WW1).
Remember: On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month— All quiet on the Western Front.
The horror of that War, still unequalled in the lunacy of human history, was to be remembered for all time with the promise to do such things never again.
Forgive me if I rail about this misnaming every year on Armistice day.
The special day of remembrance and reflection was truly known as Armistice Day in the US until, as an example of the wisdom of Congress, the name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
Remembrance Day hurts
The young men of 19 tender years of age that were slaughtered in that war were to be remembered forever. The red poppy became a symbol of the dead in Flanders Fields. Here are the first two verses of the poem that made the red poppy synonymous with the Great War.
“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.”
Below is a video featuring LAST POST. A bugle call tied to Remembrance Day.
This past summer my wife and I visited memorials, cemeteries and battlefields in France and Belgium.
At the battle of the Somme, fought between 1 July and 18 November 1916, more than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. It is that sacrifice that gave birth to Remembrance Day.
What was lost.
As Americans, we were spared most of the carnage of that war. We entered the last year of the War and, while are casualties were terrible, they paled compared to the massacre of Europe, the British and French Empires.
Perhaps that is why the date is still honored in Canada with its original meaning. Newfoundland, part of the Commonwealth of Nations but not yet (in 1916) part of Canada, had 100% casualties at the Somme.
Every young man from that small province was lost. An entire generation was lost and honored on Remembrance Day.
Visit Ypres, the Somme, or Vimy Ridge and those young men who died so young 150 years ago live again. The land is still twisted and scarred.
The dead still lie inches beneath the soil and in perfectly manicured graveyards. Over 1,000 of them. I visited too many to count.
Do we lose something important in our history lesson by calling Remembrance Day (Armistice Day)? Is it Veterans Day? I think we do. We lose the main idea of the day— to reflect on the great losses and promise never again. It is the promise part we miss.