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The Color Of Veterans Day

Veterans_day Wikipedia 1983“The War To End All Wars” officially ended on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. But the armistice that ended the fighting in World War I, then known as The Great War, went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11, 1919, to be the first commemoration of Armistice Day with these words:“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

Though Armistice Day was originally intended to honor those who lost their lives in World War I, the fact that this war did not “end all wars,” has led to Acts of Congress designating November 11 as a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

The name was changed to “Veterans Day” in 1954, and Congress designated this day to celebrate America’s veterans for their service and sacrifice, patriotism and love of country.

America’s Veterans Day coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, celebrated in other parts of the world, including Great Britain and Canada, America’s allies in battle.

The red poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day, and in Canada the Royal Canadian Legion sells replica poppies to raise money for their veterans.

The brilliant red color of the poppies became a fitting symbol of the blood spilled in WWI. The flowers bloomed in flaming masses across the fields in Belgium where some of the deadliest battles took place.

509px-In_Flanders_Fields_(1921)_page_1 Creative Commons 2014In the spring of 1915, Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae penned the now- famous poem In Flanders Fields, after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier:

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.

Veterans Day MoinaMichaelUniversity of Georgia professor Moina Michael was so moved by McCrae’s poem, that she made it her mission to always wear a red poppy to honor those who died in war.

Michael also began selling silk poppies to raise money to help disabled veterans, many of whom she taught in her classes at the University. Through her efforts, the American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as their symbol of remembrance for war veterans.

After her death in 1944, “The Poppy Lady” as she was known, was honored with a commemorative stamp from the U.S. Postal Service, celebrating her life’s achievements.

The poem Michael wrote in answer to In Flanders Fields, was penned in November, 1918:

“We Shall Keep The Faith”

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

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