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  Weekly Feature (November 9, 2008)


Remembrance Day
L's Weekly Feature


Why are so many people wearing red poppies on their jackets? What is Remembrance Day?

Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day  – is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on the 11th of November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918.

To get a Canadian perspective on the day, please visit the Veterans Affairs Canada site: A Day of Remembrance—Veterans Affairs Canada

Canada’s heavy sacrifices in the First and Second World Wars are legendary. However, amongst the younger generation and even among the boomer generation who have gone through the “Flower Power” and “Make Peace, Not War” era, this day is losing its significance. The current “war” that Canada is waging in Afghanistan is a closer reminder of the need for vigilance against the forces that threaten our political and economic systems. However, many are unhappy with the change from Canada’s traditional role as peace-keepers to one requiring our soldiers to actively seek out and engage the enemy.

Compare and contrast the two war poems below to see the different views of war. The first, “In Flanders Field” offers the traditional view; the second, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, paints a starker, close-up perspective of the realities of war.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915

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.

Dulce Et Decorum Est
By Wilfred Owen, October 1917 – March 1918

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The Latin words mean: "It is a good and glorious thing to die for one's country."




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