This coming Sunday in England is Remembrance Sunday. At eleven minutes past eleven there will be a nationwide minute’s silence to honor those who gave their life in the service of their country. Around the United Kingdom poppies and wreathes will be laid at memorials, and the names of those lost read aloud.
Wikipedia online notes that the First Two Minute Silence in London (11 November 1919) was reported in the Manchester Guardian:
The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect. The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition. Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of ‘attention’. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still … The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain … And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.
During the early days of the first world war, a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by an exploding German artillery shell. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae. As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because a chaplain wasn’t present. John said a few gentle words in remembrance of his friend and noted how the fields around him were red with poppies that had seem to spring up over the night. In response to his experience he wrote the famous poem 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.
However you decide to mark Veterans Day this coming Friday please take a few moments to reflect upon the effects of war, for its wounds upon humanity are all around us. They can be seen in those that went before us, making the ultimate sacrifice. In those still with us who have served their country well and been ever changed by their experiences. In those families who lost loved ones and have been changed forever by their loss. In those who every day risk their lives serving their country.
It is our responsibility to remember what went before so that it is not repeated. It is up to us to show our veterans the respect and gratitude we owe them for their generous service. It is up to us to be the conscience of the government so that our military are never placed in harms way in the service of someone’s ego or a business interest. It is up to us.
I pray you remember that the freedoms we enjoy came at a price, and be grateful for those who helped to create them. Some are still with us. Many are gone. To all we are deeply grateful. I pray that this weekend, wherever you are, you are blessed.