At the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, World War I came to its end. That day has been memorialized since as Armistice Day, Poppy Day, Remembrance Day and Veterans Day. The United States changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954, after the cease fire in the Korean War. In Canada and the United Kingdom, this day is Remembrance Day. Poppy Day is a popular name for this day arising out of the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae, of the Canadian Army. The honor of the day now extends beyond those who served in World War I to those who have served in the military in all times of war and times of peace. Since September 11th, some have also included those who serve in our domestic emergency services. It is good to honor those who have and continue to serve in our military and other services. It is only right to say thank you to them.
I think Remembrance Day is a good name for the day. Remembrance Day calls more from me than thanking Veterans. It calls on me to remember the circumstances that caused brave young men and women to be placed in harm’s way, making them Veterans. I am called to remember the horrific consequences of our wars. The BBC recently published aerial photos taken shortly after World War I that show the fresh scars of trench warfare. They are graphic in their depiction of the complete devastation. There is a new BBC program based upon those photos and the memories of that time. The recent movies “Band of Brothers” and “Saving Private Ryan” graphically depict the horror of battle, and what it means for some to earn the title: Veteran. Remembrance Day calls me to consider what is worthy of such sacrifice. Remembrance Day also calls me to consider the words of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” To me, Remembrance Day better captures the legacy of those whom we honor: Remember, remember and do not join me here, in Flanders Fields, where “. . . the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row. . . .”