Veterans Day 2011

a poppy, symbolic of veterans everywhere

It is Veterans Day and I am off school. My students are off school and it is a vacation day. But, not all schools are out, my kids are in school and a few other local school districts are in session. I teach in one school district and I live in another. It is nice to have a day off, but it would be nicer to celebrate what the day means and honor veterans for the service and sacrifice.

So far, I have accomplished little with my day off. It sounds like a whine, and it is. I took Ivy to the groomer and have picked her up – she’s resting upstairs, I have e-mailed a few folks, replied to a few comments, called my mother-in-law, talked to a friend about a fantasy football trade – I declined, and in general had a restful day. It is Veterans Day and I should have done more with it than I have. I feel guilty.

My day started well, with an honor breakfast for William then a flag ceremony at Olivia’s school honoring veterans, but I have done little since. I called my father-in-law to thank him for his service and he reminded me that things have changed and even though I agree that things have changed, I don’t have to accept it.

Olivia's elementary school raises the flag and honors veterans on 11/11

I have been fortunate to have visited a couple of American Military Cemeteries in Europe, all of them in France. Most recently, I visited the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial near Belleau Wood just northeast of Paris. It was the occasion of my father’s memorial and remembrance a year ago, last June. My brothers and I accompanied my stepmother and my dad’s cremains and spread them where he wanted to remain in eternity. In 1997, Beth and I had visited the cemetery with dad and it was a beautiful Spring Day, the peonies were in bloom and it was peaceful and serene. That same trip in 1997, we attended a Memorial Day service at the Suresnes Cemetery on the outskirts of Paris. American soldiers who were killed in action during World War I are buried in those two cemeteries and they are noted for their marble crosses all aligned perfectly in rows and columns inscribed with the name of the soldier, his rank, unit, the state from where he entered the service, and the date he fell in defense of his country.

When I think of that, it makes me wish I were in school teaching my students the importance of the day and what – 11-11 – really means. Last spring, a veteran was selling ‘poppies’ and I bought several of them. I pulled one out this morning, fastened it to my collar, and started my day. The poppy reminds me of my dad and the poem but it is symbolic of veterans – everywhere. Below is the poem which inspired the use of the poppy as a symbol of the veteran, first with veterans of “The Great War” – World War I, but of subsequent wars and anyone who has served in the military, my dad included.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

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.

My poppy is still there and it reminds me of the importance of the day.

After a day and half of parent conferences, I needed a day where I could slow down a little – a light day. I have gotten quite a bit of thinking done, I got my watch back and now I have time, metaphorically speaking, only. It has been a great day and I know tomorrow is going to be a million and six times better. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.

Have you thanked a veteran, remembered someone who served, or served in the military yourself?

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