November 11 - Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Remembrance Day
Across the world, in Britain, the United States, France, Canada and many others, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is a time to honour all those who fell in military service.
Today marks the 90th anniversary of the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, signalling the end of World War 1, the day has taken on new meaning in most countries and signals a moment of silence for all fallen soldiers.
Known as Armistice Day in Britain and France, Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada, the names may change but the point remains the same:
Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veterans Day – is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918.
Although wikipedia states that in Canada, Remembrance Day is known also as 'poppy day', I've never heard that used to describe today. The name comes from the small red poppies that are sold by veterans and worn by the general public in the weeks leading up to Remembrance day.
The poppies have special significance due to 'In Flanders Field', a heartbreaking poem written by a Canadian soldier during the first world war.
Greatwar.nl has a great deal of information on John McCrae, a Canadian soldier and physician who penned the poem 'In Flanders Fields' in 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend the day before.
"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most famous poems written during the First World War, and has been called "the most popular poem" produced during that period. It is written in the form of a French rondeau. Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote it on May 3, 1915, after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day before. The poem was first published on December 8, that year in Punch magazine.
Paul S. Graham has an interesting take on the poppies and their symbolism, as well as what a poppy actually means today:
The poppy is iconic; in a curious way, it unites us. You will find it on the lapels of peaceniks and militarists and everyone in between.
The poppy is sacred: it reminds us of young lives brutally snuffed.
The poppy is evil: it urges us to “take up our quarrel with the foe.”
The poppy is a major source of income in Afghanistan for corrupt government officials, warlords and insurgents alike.
The advent of new technology and ways of communication haven't hindered the respect shown on this day, in fact you can add a poppy to your facebook page here. There's also a similar project to add a poppy here.
While some provinces in Canada recognize the 11th of November as a statutory holiday, others do not. There is a petition on facebook to make it nationwide.
A member of parliament from Wales wrote a very solid blog post regarding the Remembrance day ceremonies in Wales, which like Britain has its ceremonies on the Sunday before November 11th:
Remembrance Day in Ruthin, and several hundred are gathered around the cenotaph in Wynnstay Road.
Every year, it seems that the crowds grow larger, even as the number of World War II veterans declines. Welsh soldiers have seen service in Afghanistan and Iraq; many of them come from this area.
A blogger over at blogspot wrote about their feelings on Remembrance day, and reminded people that some countries are still engaged in wars right now:
I sat and watched the service this morning on TV. What struck me today, and I admit it sounds silly, was that we are currently at war. We have troops engaged in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It has almost become a forgotten war. People are blind to the reporting of these conflicts on TV and in the news now which must be horrendously demotivating and indeed insulting to the troops and the families. Looking around our country now you would struggle to notice we are a nation with troops engaged on two fronts.
Another blogger reminds us that we have a duty not only to remember our veterans, but to continue to care for living veterans, not only physically with proper medical care, but emotionally.
But today, there are other important issues for us to consider as we think about how we care for our veterans. First, we must remember that we, as a nation, have committed ourselves to providing care to our veterans through their own healthcare system. It is the only universal healthcare system in the nation providing coverage for all regardless of employment status or other privileges.
A former military member has some interesting thoughts on those that died, both for a cause and in vain:
No, I'm not a naive pacifist. I come from a family with a strong military background, and I too have served in the Army (three years, Signals Platoon, Adelaide University Regiment, if you must know). So I'm speaking with a little bit of knowledge about the military.
And what I am questioning is the "we must remember that they didn't die in vain" argument. Because the fact is, millions did die in vain. Millions did die for no purpose.
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Manchester, United Kingdom