On Veterans Day, we celebrate and honor all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces for their valor, patriotism and sacrifices. Like Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, it’s a holiday we share with other nations and I believe we should honor and respect Veterans Day in the same way.
While Veterans Day is celebrated only once a year, the pride and gratefulness we feel for all those who have served should remain foremost in our consciousness. In the U.K., Australia, Canada, and other countries, it is customary to a wear a red poppy in the weeks leading up to the holiday. In fact, it’s an unwritten rule that any public-facing person (including politicians, TV celebrities, and even soccer players) must wear a red poppy at this time of year.
In the U.K., a large-scale fundraising initiative to benefit veterans accompanies the buildup to the ‘red poppy’ holiday they call Remembrance Day. Additionally, this year saw the installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper at the Tower of London. The breathtaking display is named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. The Daily Telegraph posted this remarkable video showing how the Tower of London looks from the air:
The poppy-wearing tradition started shortly after World War I, inspired by a poem called “In Flanders Fields,” by Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae. He wrote the poem, currently associated with America’s Memorial Day, on May 3, 1915 after attending the funeral of a fallen comrade.
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.
The last stanza is moving. These words, written almost a century ago, are still valid and important today. We must never forget those who die in combat, and we should carry the torch forward for every armed forces member of our great nation . Though much has changed since World War I, we should honor and remember the millions of men and women who have served since and prior to the writing of this poem. Each person who has donned the uniform of the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard should remain front and foremost in our minds as we celebrate Veterans Day this year.
America currently has more than 21 million veterans; some are young adults, and some are in their 100s. Today, we honor all of them. Veterans are America’s past, present, and future. They have been an integral foundation of American Public University System since our founding in 1991 as American Military University by retired Marine Corps officer James Etter. Today, many of our faculty and staff are veterans or currently serve in the military. Our university is proudly aligned with current and former service members, and we will always honor the men and women who have served to protect and defend the United States and its allies.