Thursday, November 10, 2016

Happy Veterans/Remembrance Day



Every morning I drive by a monument on my way to school. Most days, I drive right by and don’t pay much attention to it. But every once in a while something happens that makes you take notice of something. 

I was coming out of the convenience store across the street and saw a hunched-over old man, shuffling from the parking lot to the monument. Something about his determined gait caught my attention. It took him a while to get to the middle of the park, but when he arrived to his destination, this little man, bent over with age, snapped up tall and straight, standing in a full salute in front of the flag. For almost a minute he stood at attention. Then, he turned and shuffled back to his car. Still hunched over, but with a little quicker step.
The entire scene brought tears to my eyes. Just remembering it brings tears to my eyes. My writer’s mind went into high-gear. What kind of things had this man seen? What had he sacrificed for our country? Who had he left behind?
A few days ago, I went to Wal-Mart and the VFW had a table set up outside. They were handing out poppies. Every year I put a few dollars in their donation can and take my poppy. Sadly, I didn’t know why they handed out poppies. 

In May, 1915 a young Canadian artillery officer was killed. Major John McCrae, the brigade doctor for the unit, was asked to conduct the burial service for his friend, Lieutenant Alex Helmer. It was here that Major McCrae began drafting the now famous poem, “Flanders Field.”
The first lines of the poem read:
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.
The red poppy, a hardy flower that often sprouted up in empty battlefields and cemeteries, became significant to both the UK and Canadian soldiers and was eventually adopted in the US as a sign of remembrance.
This morning all the kindergarten classes at my school will load up on a bus, travel across town and sing the National Anthem for the veteran’s there. Then, each student finds a veteran and presents them with a picture they drew for them. There’s something about five year olds singing the Star Spangled Banner that makes even the gruffest ex-military man tear up. The VFW always has lots of cookies waiting for the students and they sit and have cookies together.
As the kindergarten classes are leaving, the 4th grade classes arrive to read the poems and stories they have written for the occasion and other schools in the area will be holding assemblies and holding other activities. Friday, our town holds a parade that ends at the Veterans Memorial Park. The community is invited to a potluck dinner at the VFW after the parade and on Saturday, there is an assembly where veterans will be speaking and sharing their stories.
Similar activities will be occurring all over the US, Canada and the UK. Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day was originally known as Armistice Day, marking the ending of WW1 hostilities on November 11, 1915. Since then, it’s been changed to remember soldiers in all wars.
My little town does a lot to honor the veterans of our community. But this Veterans Day, as I remember that old man leaving the park, I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s enough. So this Veterans Day, instead of focusing on the bitterness of the latest election, I’m going to wrap my arms around a local veteran, thank him for his service, and praise God that thanks to men and women like him, I have the freedoms I do.

28 comments:

  1. This was a beautiful post, LeAnne. Your story about the elderly gentleman brought tears to my eyes. They did so much for us, yet so many go unrecognized. God bless them.

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    1. Thanks, Jill. I have to admit, I was crying while I wrote it. Some scenes are just etched in your memory forever.

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  2. A lovely tribute. When I was growing up, our property was right next to a cemetery. On days when the military was honored, we awoke to gun shots 50 feet away followed by Taps.

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    1. Oh wow. Taps always gives me goosebumps. Did they still do that for military funerals as well?

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  3. LeAnne, what a lovely post. I'm tearing up over my coffee. We have a very active VFW organization in my little town. I'm continually amazed at the giving nature of these men and women. Not only did they bravely serve our country, now they generously give so much to our community. So very grateful for our Veterans.

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    1. Hi Carol! Our VFW is very active in our community as well. They have a dinner every Friday and my husband and I often go down there to eat. I keep telling him to join (he is a Gulf War vet) but so far he hasn't done it.

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  4. Love this post, LeAnne! Such a touching reminder of what we celebrate!

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  5. Very moving post, LeAnne. There are no words for how grateful I am for all who serve our country and protect us.

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    1. Hi, Rula.I don't think I really comprehended how much our soldiers went through until I visited London. Almost every street in the city still carries scars from the two world wars. The museums in London were amazing and gave me a whole new appreciation for what they saw and went through.

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  6. LeAnn, thanks for sharing that. Love what your town does for Veterans Day.

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    1. Thanks for coming by Merrillee. I'm pretty proud of my little town. :)

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  7. LeAnne, my family has always been very active in support of veterans. The small town where I grew up did much to support everyone going to WWII. My dad trained welders and my mom made cookies and coffee which she and I took to the troop trains in my little red wagon. I think I was 5 during black-outs and rationing. It stays with you. And my classes always helped sell poppies. Since Denny was a vet of the end of Korea I still support AmVets, VFW and Paralyzed vets. Others when I can. I think we all need to do more, but it's hard to figure out what. Love your post.

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    1. Hi Roz! What wonderful memories...well, maybe not the blackouts and rationing, but how your parents helped to support the troops. It's hard to know the best way to help. I do what I can, but I know it's not enough. Today, one of the Marine's stopped our principal after the classes left said that seeing the kids was the best part of his year.

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  8. Wonderful post, LeAnne. I'm sure you'll make a veteran's day.

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    1. Thank you Beth. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  9. Very nice post, LeAnne. The nursing home where I volunteer is having a program tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to helping with that.

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    1. I would love to be a fly on the wall and listen to some of the stories the vets could tell. I bet you'll hear all kinds of stories tomorrow at the home. Thank you for doing that!

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  10. LeAnne, I'm still sobbing. Wonderful post. For me, it's hard to imagine the courage and love for us that makes someone put himself in the line of fire. I know the men who serve together have a bond we can't understand - like that old guy probably remembering his buddies. Wish we could do more to help, that those men were better served by all of us.

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    1. I wish I knew who the man was. I've never seen him again. There is a train and a bus station next to the park, so it's likely he was waiting for someone and was just a traveler passing through. What an impact he made on me though.

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  11. It is a beautiful post, LeAnne, and you brought tears to my eyes, too. In my opinion, we can never thank our veterans and those who are actively serving in the military enough.

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    1. Hi Kate. I feel the same way too. Because my husband is a vet, the kids used to really go all out for him on Veterans Day. Probably more than Father's Day, lol. He always got a kick out of it.

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  12. Lovely post, LeAnne and to be reminded of Flanders Field and the poppies is so necessary these days as few even know of their significance. So many died so that this world can be free. We owe them every free breath we take. Thank you for remembering our Vets.
    Our dental office hosted a Veterans Day Free Screening for Dental Exams and X-rays last weekend. It was our honor to serve these men and women who could not afford dental care. All the girls here, assistants and three dentists and all the administrative staff donated their time and effort. It was very moving. And certainly emotional for me. I felt my father, a WWII vet, all around me that day. Truly a memorable day.

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  13. LeAnne, your post moved me to tears. I think it's great you take your class to visit and sing to our veterans, and then to give them pictures. How special. Not only are you doing something sweet for our veterans, you're teaching our children to respect these men and women who've fought for our freedom. Thanks!

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  14. Hey Leanne,
    What a sweet post. So good to focus on positive people who I am grateful for. Thanks for writing this. Hugs, Laura

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  15. I love a post that gets me choked up!

    My husband is a veteran and still insists he didn't do anything special, but I keep telling him the applause isn't solely for HIM -- it's for all of US who want to give thanks.

    Veterans who think they don't deserve any are missing a chance to serve, although they probably don't see it that way.

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