The Veteran’s Prayer

National Day of Prayer

Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, in my daily newspaper, a daughter remembered her father, and she remembered his favourite prayer. He was a World War II Veteran, and the husband of my grade 8 teacher. He has been gone but not forgotten for three years. Here is his  favourite prayer—so right for this day of remembrance:

It
is the Veteran, not the preacher,

Who
has given us freedom of religion.

It
is the Veteran, not the reporter,

Who
has given us freedom of the press.

It
is the Veteran, not the poet,

Who
has given us freedom of speech.

It
is the Veteran, not the campus organizer,

Who
has given us freedom to assemble.

It
is the Veteran, not the lawyer,

Who
has given us the right to a fair trial.

It
is the Veteran, not the politician,

Who
has given us the right to vote.

It
is the Veteran, who salutes the Flag

It
is the Veteran, who serves under the Flag.

Eternal
rest grant them, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  AMEN

War—an ugly and harsh word. An ugly and harsh reality. Thank you to those who have fought and are now fighting. The fight for peace is worthy; the toll is heartbreaking.

Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm  Comments (17)  
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I Am Honoured to Don a Poppy

This is my weekly column. In Canada, Remembrance Day is on November 11th but because it is next Monday I had to write my Remembrance Day column this week:

         

        

English: A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn...

 A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn on the lapel of a men’s suit. In many Commonwealth countries, poppies are worn to commemorate soldiers who have died in war, with usage most common in the week leading up to Remembrance Day (and Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand). The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I secure my red poppy to my sweater and proudly wear the symbol of Remembrance Day over my heart. I get the poppy from a friendly member of the Legion standing guard at the grocery store over his cache of poppies in a container that has seen better days.  I scramble around in my purse for some money to slip into the slot as the purveyor of poppies says, “Don’t worry if you don’t have any money” and then when I succeed in finding a dollar seventy-five, not enough in my mind, but enough for him to say “Would you like two?” And I gratefully accept two.

          So many of us do not carry money anymore, using plastic to pay for groceries and gas and other daily needs, but I am trying to remember to carry it for occasions such as these—for my red poppy around Remembrance Day, for a hot dog sponsored by a charity, for the offerings of the Girl or Boy Scouts, for the Salvation Army at Christmas. These people do not trade in plastic, they trade in real life loonies and toonies, and five and ten dollar bills, and dare I say it — the occasional twenty.

          I think of Remembrance Day as a sacred day, a day of honour, a day I want to give thanks for those who put their lives on the line. I am happy to live in our country of Canada, a country where freedom reigns even though we grouse over the way it is run. We have the freedom to grouse and that is something to celebrate. And this freedom is directly related to those who guard it.

          I am honoured to don a poppy. To wear it with pride. And to share my second one with a member of my family to wear proudly. I am also thrilled that when I went to buy my poppy I was told that the money was not necessary—for it was more important to the man who was offering them that they be worn, than they be paid for. But of course, the money for the poppies is necessary.  I went to the Canadian Legion website and found out why.

          According to the site, the Poppy “has stood as a visual symbol of our Remembrance Day since 1921”, but before that “its presence over the graves of soldiers, and in the fields of honour was noted as early as the 19th century” but the “reason for its adoption over 100 years later in Canada, was due to, in no small part, Lieutenant-Colonel  John McCrae and his now famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”….written in May 1915 “following the death of a fellow soldier.”

          Though there is an international connection, the site stresses that “it is today that the importance of the Poppy as the Flower of Remembrance in Canada is even more evident” and “these red flowers can be seen on the lapels and collars of so many, and this single act ensures that our memories of those who died in battle will remain strong.”

          So, where does the money go that we search our purses for and bring out our moth ridden wallets? “Donations received during the Poppy Campaign annually raise more than $14 million for the support of Veterans and their families.” According to the Legion site, “Poppy Funds are held in trust and the usage is clearly defined.”

          Veterans Affairs Canada once oversaw the production of the poppies, but once it became impractical for them to maintain the operation, the Legion volunteered to take on the responsibility, and the production of the poppies is Canadian based and under strict Legion control and oversight. The Lapel poppy first showed up in 1922 and “serves as a symbol of unity for those who recognize the sacrifices that were made for… freedom and….forges a bond between people of all ages, not only within Canada, but around the world.”

          The poppy has not been without controversy. In a 2010 article on the MSN News Canada Site, “Folo”, Corrine Milic poses this question: “Is there room for both flowers in Remembrance Day ceremonies? A red poppy to remember the sacrifices military men and women have made in the past and continue to make today. A white poppy to inspire a more peaceful future?”

          The words of my generation in the lyrics of “WAR” sung aggressively by Edwin Starr advocate another way to bring peace. He sang:
Chorus: (War) good God y’all, (What is it good for?)

Absolutely nothing,….. Say it again–                                               

(War, what is it good for?) Absolutely nothing….

Verse 4: Peace, love and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s gotta be a better way
.”

            Until we find a better way, I say thank you to all those striving for peace and freedom. Join me on the 11th at the 11th hour of the 11th month to remember those who have tried and those who are trying to find “a better way.”

~ They Shall Not Grow Old ~ An Ode to Remembrance Day ~ November 11, 2012

Remembrance...

Remembrance… (Photo credit: Rick Leche)

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning ~ We will remember them.”

~ Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen

There is no romance in Remembrance Day, though the words of Binyon may make it seem so. The fact that “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old” sounds dreamy, almost idealistic, but it is not. Romance is a term often used only for the love between two people, but its definition in part is “the free expression of feelings”. Again, I say, there is no romance in not growing old. “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn” though is comforting in a way. We still need to be comforted at the losses that were incurred; and we still need to remember.

Portrait of Laurence Binyon by William Strang

Portrait of Laurence Binyon by William Strang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We need to find a way in which to honour those who lost their lives so that we can live the life we live in freedom. And though their deaths were in battle, they were not in vain, and I think Binyon’s poem reflects that. Most of those who died were young. To think that they will not be condemned to live life as those of us who age, and go through the perils and challenges that come with aging—I guess puts the loss on a less vulnerable level.

But we should never become comfortable in the loss of young lives – whether the loss is for country and freedom, or as in so many of the battles of today—protection of people and the preservation of life as we know it. It is not easy to understand war and conflict; it is not easy to send our best to protect us, knowing they are in harm’s way; it is not easy to reflect on the losses of the past, or contemplate the challenges of the future.

Remembrance Day is a day for pause and reflection and to remember. But our remembering should be active—it is not just to recall or keep something in mind—it is to keep from forgetting and to commemorate. And we are not just to remember those who gave their lives; we are to remember those who fought, and those who continue to fight in all and every capacity on our behalf.

For years I had no real reference point for Remembrance Day—I was not personally affected by it—or so I thought. I had lost no loved ones, and I did not “feel” the significance of the day. But in school we were reminded, and at church we were reminded, and in the media we were reminded. And we need to continue to be reminded to remember. We need to carry on the tradition “lest we forget”.

Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps there is romance in Remembrance Day, because if we use the definition of “free expression of feeling” for romance, then we should freely express our sympathy, freely mourn the losses, and freely remember those who made and make it possible to walk in freedom.

I will happily and sombrely pause at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month and remember. But it will be a remembrance that has a past, present, and future. One that has life at its core, not death; a remembrance of those who did not get to grow old and weary; and a remembrance of those who saw battle and did come home to grow old.

We shall remember them well; and we shall forge forward and support those who are still involved in protecting us and others. Remembrance is not passive; it is evocative of what we must not forget. I leave you with “A Wish” for the future, part of a poem by Maxine Kendall:

Maybe it is pointless
To wish for lasting peace
For all mankind to lay down arms

peace

peace (Photo credit: Aunt Owwee)

For all fighting to cease

Hope lies in a child’s heart
Not yet turned to stone
A mind free of prejudice
A child not alone

If all children of the world
Held each other’s hand
They could do what we could not
Make a Brotherhood of Man.

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