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  • Writer's pictureJane Rubin

‘In Flanders Field...’ A Memorial Day Remembrance

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

‘Just a speck in the universe, a moment in time - how completely humbled and insignificant I felt standing in the middle of the American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Normandy. Thousands upon thousands of crosses and stars of David - each representing a casualty from that infamous battle. Many soldiers’ bodies were sent home to their families, but over 9000 who died during the summer of 1944 were kept in France forever.

We were all handed a poppy to pin to our jacket. The day was overcast and drizzly - common weather in the Normandy region. Did it add to the serious mood? It was also very cloudy 75 years back during the landing.

It is hard if not impossible for even the most hardened of us to stand in this cemetery and avoid the overwhelming sense of sacrifice made on our behalf that summer of 1944. Standing in the middle, turning slowly and looking out in all directions at the massive acreage, seeing the English Channel in the distance from where the troops came, made me think about some of the statistics. Looking from cross to cross to star, I heard our guide say, “average age 24”, “two of Roosevelt’s sons buried together,” “a dozen or so nurses”, “over 9,000 Americans, “ many unmarked and so on.

It is a young person's cemetery, a once future generation - all willing to fight and sacrifice for a freedom most of us take so much for granted. Walking out of the cemetery I kept thinking, they sacrificed so that we would not have to, my children did not have to, and maybe my grandchildren will not have to either - Such deep gratitude - and then it brought to mind the famous poem,

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 your to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

L C John McCrae, MD Canadian Army

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