SURRATT: Let’s truly honor our veterans this Veterans Day

Published 4:00 am Friday, November 10, 2023

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

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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.”

This poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician in World War I, was written in 1915 and is one of the more well-known poems from that period. It also served as the inspiration for the poppies that are distributed on Veterans Day.

Those of you reading this who are my age or older may remember learning this poem in elementary or junior high school, and tomorrow being Veterans Day, I thought it might be fitting this year to use “In Flanders Fields” to lead this column.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, McRae wrote the first few lines of the poem after officiating at the burial service for a friend killed during the second battle of Ypres in Belgium. It was first published in England by Punch Magazine and soon became the most popular poem of World War I.

I believe “In Flanders Fields” is a poem that honors all veterans, living or dead, because in some way even the men and women in the military who survive war leave a little of themselves behind, either on the battlefield or behind the lines at field hospitals where the effort to save a life is the top priority.

As I’ve said before, I’m the son of two veterans, one American and one French, and while they would never detail their experiences, their silence led me to read about the war in which they served and my respect for their service grew.

Every Nov. 11, Vicksburg’s Veterans Day Committee plans and holds a program honoring our veterans, and every Nov. 11 the parade and the memorial service are attended almost exclusively by veterans. That’s a shame. We need to get out this Saturday and honor our veterans for the service they’ve rendered to us.

These are men and women who put their lives on hold to serve their country and protect us.

Saturday, take some time to honor our veterans. Come to the parade at 9:30 a.m. and the service that follows at 11. If you can’t make both, go to one. I can assure you the veterans there will appreciate it.

The men buried on Flanders Field more than 100 years ago are now all but forgotten, except to their families. We should never forget our veterans living here; they deserve our respect.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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