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Flanders Fields and the MDVA Virtual Remembrance Wall

May 5, 2020
Flanders Fields, an Infamous World War I Poem
MDVA Virtual Remembrance Wall

As April showers bring May flowers, I remind myself of the infamous poem written during World War I by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, “Flanders Fields”.  For most in the veteran community, the poem is a known one.  However for many in the general population, little is known about the poem, its’ significance to veterans, and its’ association with the red poppy.  So, for purposes of our first MDVA blog post and because it will soon be Memorial Day, I conducted some research on the history of this famous poem.

Lt. Col. McCrae wrote Flanders Fields on the day following the death of his close friend, Alexis Helmer.  While conducting the burial, he noticed how the red poppies grew around the graves of fallen soldiers.  On May 3, 1915, an avid writer of poetry, McCrae wrote these words.

“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.

Flanders Fields is associated with the fierce fighting that took place along the Western Front during World War I.  Numerous battles took place there, including the Second Battle of Ypres, where Lt. Col. McCrae served.

(Flanders Fields, WWI, Photo Credit: King, W.L)

The land is now home to the American Battle Monuments Commissions’ Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial.  At the cemetery, 411 Americans are buried or commemorated as missing.  Neglected for years, the area is also home to tens of thousands of poppies.  It is the only American World War I cemetery in Belgium.

(Poppy, Photo Credit: Burl, D.S.)

The red poppy, while considered a weed, become notable as a symbol of dead soldiers.  Commonly seen worn on the lapel during Memorial Day ceremonies, the poppy honors all men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice during their service to our state, nation, and world.

MDVA Virtual Remembrance Wall

Written from the perspective of the fallen, Flanders Fields directs survivors to keep living.  It is because of this directive that MDVA is launching a virtual remembrance wall.  The fallen tell us, in Lt. Col.’s poem, “to you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high”.  The MVDA is seeking stories of our fallen, reflections on their lives and narratives on what our fallen would have us know about the torch they wish us to hold high.

Starting May 5, we will begin collecting these remembrances for sharing on our website, in our electronic newsletter, and on social media.  Please consider also sharing photos.  We will include their stories in a virtual Memorial Day message at 11:00AM on May 23, 2020.  Throughout the year, we will add to the wall. If you would like to share a remembrance message for a friend or family member, please email remembrance.wall@maryland.gov and provide the following information (feel free to copy and paste the text below in to your email).

MDVA Virtual Remembrance Wall Information

Your name: (please confirm if OK to publically share your name)
Your email:

Your relation to the service member:
Service members name:
Branch of service:
Years of service:
In what era did they serve (World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War to Present, Other):
Brief narrative of their service:
What would they would want the living to know:
By sending this email, the sender agrees to have the information contained therein shared on the MDVA website and other MDVA social media channels. 

Thank you for supporting the MDVA and for honoring the fallen in this manner.

Writer: D.Burl, Outreach Director, MDVA
Questions regarding the Remembrance Wall can be directed to remembrance.wall@maryland.gov

Source: Wikipedia, May 2020 and American Battle Monuments Commission, May 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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