COMMENTARY: Flanders Fields still remain in the hearts of America’s veterans

By Eric PilgrimNovember 9, 2023

Flora four and six open up, blood petals of young poppies,

and dance and weave ‘neath violent winds of change.

War rages betwixt blackened air and chopped seas,

entrenched in rage -- no way across No Man’s range:

Central Powers four and Allies six, hatred’s blood overspills.

Warriors, rooted, stand their ground where vainglories die—

No hope of home light’s warmth beyond Flanders Fields,

just poppies freely waving where heroes, resting, lie. ~ E. Pilgrim

Flanders Fields still remain in the hearts of America’s veterans
Some veterans have served in combat, some have served in peacetime, some have served a few days or years, some have served until retirement and beyond. But each has taken the oath to support and defend the Constitution and the United States against all enemies, even if that means losing their life. All are worthy of honor on this and every Veterans Day. (Photo Credit: Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox News) VIEW ORIGINAL

Like Memorial Day, Veterans Day sprang from war.

Unlike Memorial Day when we remember and honor our fallen heroes, Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor all who have answered the call to serve the nation. Service in war, service in peacetime, 10 days, 10,000 days, it matters not.

It doesn’t matter because those who have served or are serving have done so with the full understanding that they might one day have to sacrifice their lives for that service. It starts with the contractual oath:

“I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic …”

It’s implied in the Warrior Ethos:

“I will ALWAYS (emphasis mine) place the mission first. I will NEVER accept defeat. I will NEVER quit. I will NEVER leave a fallen comrade.”

It’s clearly spelled out in the Soldier’s Creed: “I am an American Soldier. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values … I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.”

Soldiers regularly sing about it in the Army Song at every ceremony: “Count the brave, count the true, who have fought to victory” and “Fighting till the battle’s won.”

They breathe it every day of their service to the nation, spelled out in the Army Values: Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage. Those aren’t empty platitudes that are spoken to deflect the unsuspecting away from our failures or substandard efforts. The words matter. Every word matters.

Most successful organizations have mission statements, mottos, cultural beliefs and standards. Otherwise, they likely wouldn’t be successful. Few employees, though, are willing to die for them. That’s what sets the warrior apart.

It’s what ushered the Central Powers – Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria -- to agree to an armistice with the Allied Forces of France, United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Japan and the United States on Nov. 11, 1918. It was a way for the Central Powers to admit defeat without further bloodshed.

Flanders Fields still remain in the hearts of America’s veterans
Poppies grow in the fields of Flanders, Belgium. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ad Meskens at Wikimedia) VIEW ORIGINAL

Most historians agree that it was the entrance of America’s warriors into World War I that eventually led to the armistice and then to the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, which officially ended the war. On Nov. 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson officially called for the nation to celebrate “Armistice Day.” He told the public to honor the day with parades and public gatherings as well as a moment of silence at 11 a.m.

Exactly two years later, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established at Arlington National Cemetery when officials interred and commemorated a warrior who had died in World War I. The Soldier’s casket was chosen by Sgt. Edward Younger out of four identical caskets. Younger had been wounded in the war and had earned the Distinguished Service Medal.

The unrelenting, determined sacrifices of America’s warriors is a fixture in the American psyche. It is stitched into America’s banner: a banner carried in war, a standard raised high in battle by men and women who have answered the call and have stood in the gap to defend the nation’s freedom and its Constitution against all enemies.

Our veterans devoted their lives to safeguarding our freedom. Devote some time on this special day to thank them. Remember the red poppies of Flanders' fields, and honor them all.