Wholly Living

Poppies in November

In Rememberance of Soldiers Who Sacrificed by Major Jim McGee

Red poppies are a symbol across the Western world of veterans’ sacrifice and service. Each year on November 11th, red poppies are worn to commemorate military personnel who have died in war. The story of the red poppies begins one hundred years ago in 1915, during the bitter fighting of World War I. Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae was serving as a physician to an artillery unit in the second battle of Ypres, when he learned that his close friend Lt. Alex Helmer had died in combat just a few miles north of where he was stationed. The poem McCrae wrote was believed to have been written the day after his friend’s funeral.

In 1915, the battlefields of Belgium were dotted with the red poppies than in peacetime year. The bright red flowers sprang up on patches of ground disturbed by the fighting and on the freshly overturned earth of soldiers’ burial places. The symbolism of the sacrifice of so many men and the blood they spilt on the fields is an overwhelming picture. The poem was published in the British Magazine Punch, and quickly gained great popularity. John McCrae’s poem has achieved immortality as a symbol of the grief and glory common to those who serve in the military. Unfortunately, John McCrae did not live to see his poem’s worldwide recognition; he perished in France as a result of pneumonia in January of 1918.

In Flanders Fields

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.

John McCrae

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