"In Flanders fields, the poppies blow..." -- John McCrae
 - Photo: Wikimedia Commons

"In Flanders fields, the poppies blow..." -- John McCrae

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served! Yes, it's Veterans Day here in America, but lest we forget, in the United Kingdom and in Canada and other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, November 11 is Remembrance Day.

Both holidays, of course, stemmed from Armistice Day, the original commemoration of the signing of a piece of paper that on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month of 1918 finally silenced the guns across the Western Front, ending four years of carnage that took the lives of almost 7 million civilians and 10 million military personnel on both sides.

WWI only ended because in 1917, the United States began sending almost 3 million troops overseas, chiefly U.S. Army and Marine Corps, who at last helped break the stalemate by coming to the aid of France and Great Britain.

Western Europe lost an entire generation of young men to the nightmarish conflict, which is why Remembrance Day means so much to so many of our closest allies to this very day.

I should note that here in the States, Armistice Day evolved into Veterans Day largely because the United States already had Memorial Day, which grew out of the post-war practice of adorning the graves of those felled in the Civil War (originally it was called "Decoration Day"), which remains our bloodiest conflict-- taking the lives of over 625,000 Americans who wore the Blue or the Gray.

Veterans Day became a national holiday in the U.S. beginning in 1938. This then being their day, allow me here to salute at least three relatives of mine who served Uncle Sam in wartime. My dad, Raymond Cullen, who passed away almost eight years ago, toured Europe courtesy of the U.S. Army from 1943 through 194, attaining the rank of Technical Corporal (T/5). No doubt because he was a trade-school grad when he joined the Army, he was assigned to the Ordnance Corps, which was charged with maintaining weapons and ammo in the field. But like so many other soldiers in back-of-the-line units, as the battle to defeat Nazi Germany ground on, he was eventually reassigned to a combat role and so fought as a rifleman for the last six months of the war in Europe. My father's oldest brother, my late Uncle Dud-- Charles Dudley Cullen Jr.-- sailed the Pacific as an able seaman in the United States Navy. And the middle brother, my late Uncle Rut-- John Rutledge Cullen—was the Marine. He fought his way across Guadalcanal and like his two brothers, spoke very little if ever at all about what he experienced on the front line.

As it happens, I am the custodian of a family heirloom of the end of the Great War. It is a poignant item. It was made by a German POW the year after the war ended for my father’s uncle (my great uncle), John Rutledge Johnston, who served in France with the U.S. Army.

It is a simple, three-sided piece of scrap aluminum (and so it has not aged visibly at all), fashioned to wrap around a wooden box of matches as a case. It is decorated with nail punch marks that on the "book front" consist of a Maltese cross, the date "1919," and some olive branches. On the back is my uncle's name, another olive branch and what looks like a poppy. On the spine (in all caps) is "FLEURY," the name of one of the "Villages Détruit" (destroyed villages) of northern France, which remain in solemn tribute unoccupied to this day.

But I know of no better way to capture the spirit of Remembrance Day on this day, the 100th anniversary of the end of "The War to End All Wars," then by sharing this timeless poem of sacrifice and commitment, written on a Western Front battlefield by Lt. Col. John McCrae, MD, Canadian Army (1872-1918):

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.

 

Author

David Cullen
David Cullen

David Cullen

Executive Editor David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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Executive Editor David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

View Bio
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