Monday, May 25, 2009

In Flanders Field the poppies bloom...

It is Memorial Day and I thought it would be fitting to write something to honour the fallen heroes. In Canada and most other commonwealth and allied forces countries, Nov 11, Remembrance Day, is the day that the heroes of war are remembered. And every year, on November 11, I wear a poppy pin and I post the John McCrae Flanders Field poem.

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.

It's a beautiful poem that captures the sacrifice that men and women around the world made so that you and me could live in a free world, and to have the right to exercise that freedom. And when you look at the images of row after row of white crosses at the Arlington Cemetery, you can't help the shiver that goes down your spine knowing of all the lives lost for your life today. To serve ones country is not just an honour, but the highest form of duty and one that not many of us in this day and age will think to do. But there are still folks among us that will bear this duty and stand up when their country calls them forth. No matter what you think about the current state of affairs, and the wars we are fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan or elsewhere, no matter what your ideology, your political belief, you cannot deny that what those men and women are doing, risking their lives everyday, is something to be proud of, something to honour. We wish them a safe return home, these brave men and women, we wish they will be led by leaders that will not places them in harms way unnecessarily, because they have placed their trust in those leaders. And they have placed their lives on the line, to serve and protect us.

I remember a Canada parade years ago in Ottawa. There was a military parade past Parliament Hill. I remember that the last remaining veterans from World War two, marched in that parade. There was a couple that were in wheel chairs, but they were dressed in their crisp military uniforms, backs straight, head held high and the solemn look of one that had seen so much in this lifetime. And they marched. Those few remaining heroes, and I remember not being able to stop the tears because at that moment I truly felt that I was there, because of them. I truly felt I owed these men my life. Because they fought for a future that became my present, my life today.

Two years ago I attended a funeral for CWO Cornell Chao. He was the brother of a coworker of mine. It was his third deployment to Iraq, when the Apache helicopter that he piloted was shot down as he provided support to ground troops. The funeral was with full military honour, 12 gun salute, white doves, folding of the flag and all that. Ceremony and rituals, but anything less would not have done. Because he was too young to die. He had hopes and dreams like everyone else. He was planning a life with his fiance. And he was on his third and last deployment. He was not from a poor family, that the military was his only option. He joined because he wanted to join. Because he saw it as an opportunity to give back to the country he loved. And he paid for that love with his life.

So today I think back to all those that followed their call to duty and lost their lives fighting for their country. I salute their families that have lost loved ones. And mostly I salute their bravery. Because to put oneself in harms way, so that others may live, that is a selfless act I don't think many can claim. That is the meaning of hero.....

Today is also a reminder to all of us why we need to stand up for what is right, because the road to freedom, the road to the rights we enjoy today, is awash in the blood of so many fallen men and woman. Let their sacrifices not be in vain....

1 comment:

Pankil Richards said...

What a great honor to the fallen heroes in being thanked for their duties on Memorial Day and Remembrance Day. Without their sacrifice, we would not be enjoying our freedom. And without your reminder, we may forget how great they really are.