Yesterday while we were in a store looking for a new popcorn popper for me, I rounded a corner and nearly bumped into a wheelchair with an older gentleman sitting in it. I apologized for nearly running into him and upon looking back at him I noticed he was wearing a crocheted poppy. The man was a veteran. He was the only one I saw wearing one and it took me back in time to when I used to see men selling the poppies all over the place this time of year and I did not have a clue about what it was all about.
What the poppies were and are about is this poem by Lt. Colonel John McCrae – 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.
When I think about this day I think about all of those who are serving and may or may not be in harms way; those who defend their respective countries. My heart goes out to their families who are separated from them and they pray daily for the safety of their loved ones. I remember my brother who was in the Air Force in Viet Nam who did not tell mom he was there because she would’ve worried herself sick. Instead he did not tell her a thing – letting her think he was just being his usual lazy self about writing – until he was transferred out of the conflict. He never liked to talk about his time there.
I wonder what did my grandfather see as an army soldier during WWI. My father never spoke about his time in the army during the Korean era either but for some reason he kept this bayonet under his side of the bed. He never knew I found it there as a child (I learned that parents kept all sorts of things they didn’t want their children to find hidden in nooks and crannies of their room. I once found a Christmas toy hidden in there! Mom was NOT happy I was in there or that I found the toy) and would’ve been highly ticked if he knew I had.
I recall my oldest nephew who served during desert storm and brought back some of the pamphlets they dropped on the Iraqi military. One of my children actually brought him in to their classroom for show and tell in his full army fatigues. He would talk about the MRE’s they ate and how hot it was where he served but nothing else. DH has shared with me about his grandfather who faked his age in order to serve his country in WWI and re-enlisted to serve England again during WWII.
Many are the soldiers – male and female – who come back and do not wish to talk about what they experienced. Sometimes that isn’t too bad but far too often it is something that festers inside of them and needs to be addressed. It wasn’t until I was an adult responsible for my father who had become very ill that I fully understood what it meant to have served ones country and how they should be treated with all honor and respect and thanks for it.
In some ways a veterans home is sad because, well, nobody is in there because they said “Oh goodie! I want to go live in a home!” Some of them are more able bodied than others, some have families that visit while others are all alone in the world save for their companions in the home, and some are there because their health from just life or even from their time in the service has made it where this is the best place for them to be.
But from personal experience of having visited my dad’s home for several years, getting to know some of the fellows (and ladies) in there was amazing and sometimes an absolute hoot! And don’t even think about standing in the wrong place when the VFW hall people come to have a barbeque and beer luncheon. You will get run over by the guys! I used to think they imported people on those days; there would be more there than I had seen on any other regular day. Give an old soldier a beer, a brat, and a younger soldier to talk to and you have made him a very happy person. It was so wonderful to see the new military sitting with, sharing, and assisting the old military.
Thinking back, I wish I had taken more pictures while visiting dad than I did. Oh sure I took pictures of us and grandpa with the grandkids but I wish I had taken pictures of some of the other people there like the one gentleman who used to challenge daddy to a wheelchair race down the hallways or of my buddy, Terry, who always wore his service cap and every year though partially disabled, he would take a trip out to Vegas with his son to have fun. We’d pass each other in the hallways with a “Hi, Terry! Hi, Teri”. It always made me smile.
I was so busy being worried about taking care of dad, if he was being cared for properly, managing his and mom’s care and finances that I missed out on a lot of moments that are gone forever. But I will always treasure daddy cheating at poker with the kids (how in the world did he get a 6 card instead of 5 card hand we will never know), how even when he was at his sickest he still loved having a beer, and how well they took care of him.
I understand so much more now and I still miss my father very much. Now whenever I see a military person, especially at airports, I smile and sometimes say thank you. Happy Veterans/Remembrance Day to all who serve and have served.
This photo was taken from last years Veterans Day post.