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In Flanders Fields

Every year I wear a poppy and observe a minute of silence on my birthday – that’s because I was born on Veteran’s Day, which is known in Canada as Remembrance Day. It’s an important day for me, not only because it’s my birthday, but because my Dad is a German World War 2 Veteran. The experiences he and my mom went through during that time have profoundly shaped my thinking, world outlook, and efforts to understand issues from multiple points of view.

My Dad was 17 years old when he was drafted into the German army. He spent the war years fighting on the Russian front, injured, sent back to the front, suffering and being tortured in a Russian prison camp. His war stories (and mom’s too) are unbelievable testimonies to the depravity of man, and to God’s providence and grace. After the war, Dad helped many people cross the border and escape East Germany to freedom. There are many more stories from that period of his life. After being refugees in West Germany, facing hunger, starvation, and extreme poverty, my parents immigrated to Canada to start a new life. More stories there, as well.

I am ever so grateful for the story of my parent’s lives. I wear a poppy not only remember and pay tribute to the Canadian war veterans, but to remember and pay tribute to them… Remembrance Day is about remembering and telling stories of the past, and learning from them.

To help you remember, why don’t you read and think about the famous Canadian Remembrance Day poem, “In Flanders Fields.” It’s posted below.

Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem, “In Flanders Fields” on May 3, 1915, during World War I, after he witnessed the death of his 22-year-old friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day before.

The poppies referred to in the poem grew in profusion in Flanders, the site near the battlefields, where war casualties were buried. The poppy thus became the symbol of Remembrance Day.  The poem has achieved near-mythic status in Canada, and is one of the nation’s most prominent symbols. Most Remembrance Day ceremonies will feature a reading of the poem in some form, and many Canadian schoolchildren memorize the verse. The poem is now also a common part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in the United Kingdom, where it holds as one of the nation’s best-loved.

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.

– Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 – 1918)

© Mary A. Kassian


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About The Author

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian, the founder of Girls Gone Wise, is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and distinguished professor of Women's Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.

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