Where Poppies Grow


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.

“In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)


Originally today was set aside for the world to remember the Great War – World War I – the “war to end all wars”. In that conflict, 70 million served in the first truly global war. Put into context, the entire world population at that time was just 1.86 billion – so the Great War touched cities, towns, villages and families around the world.

The theme that emerged after that war was one of disillusionment, and a passing of a way of life. The calm and order of the Victorian Age had shifted into uncertainty, chaos and loss of life on a scale never seen before. And you can sense that in McCrae’s poem – the loss of life, and of potential. The loss of a certain kind of innocence.

McCrae, who died of pneumonia while commanding a Canadian hospital during wartime service in France, made a plea in his poem to those left behind – don’t forget those who died. Keep faith with them, and with their sacrifice. Make it not in vain.

Today, in America, we remember veterans from all wars, and thank them for their service to the country and to the ideals of democracy and freedom which we hold dear.

About eight weeks ago, I stood at the podium in the auditorium of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The audience was made up nearly 200 military women – Army colonels, Navy commanders, Air Force captains. Marine majors and Coast Guard chief petty officers. Each of them women. All who had served their nation in war time.

It was inspiring, and completely humbling.

That day, I laid out a strategy to help military women moving from active service back into civilian life find the right kind of work. The women are undertaking that challenge with all the courage, focus and bravery that they undertook their missions while they served. And quite a few of the women in the audience continue to serve in active duty and in the reserves.

I admire the hell out of them.

And right now, I’m working with the non-profit AcademyWomen to provide coaching to their members in transition to civilian life. We’ll have an announcement on that shortly.

I have a deep and personal commitment to help veterans find the best possible work situations for themselves. I want to help them find the right fit based on their own particular strengths, goals, values and priorities. I pledge to keep the faith with them, and with their fallen comrades, by helping – using what I know how to do best – to make their lives going forward a little bit easier. Happier. More fulfilled.

It’s what I have to offer. And somehow even that doesn’t see like enough.

Today, as we pause on the eleventh day of the eleventh month and reflect on the sacrifice of veterans, let’s all pledge to do what we can to reach out to veterans and let them know – in tangible and practical ways, like jobs and homes – that we have not dropped the torch, and we will continue to hold it high. In remembrance, in appreciation and in deep commitment to future we all share.

(photo credit: James Tourtellotte)

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