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.
“In Flanders Fields” was written during World War I by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician stationed in northern France. Aside from being a physician, he was a teacher, poet, and author. McCrea was appointed as a field surgeon and was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres when his friend and former student Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed in the battle. The death and funeral of his friend inspired McCrae to write the poem.
“In Flanders Fields” was published anonymously in the British magazine Punch on December 8, 1915. However, the index for the year printed only a few weeks later attributed the poem to McCrea. The poem became one of the most popular of the war and was extensively printed in the United States while its leaders were debated whether to join the war.
McCrae died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918 while commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) at Boulogne. He was buried with full military honors at Wimereaux Cemetery near the English Channel 3 miles from Boulogne.McCrae’s poem has made the poppy a popular and powerful symbol of Remembrance Day celebrated on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the Commonwealth Realm to mark the anniversary of Armistice Day in 1919. In the United States, we celebrate it as Veterans Day.
The remembrance poppy is not as strong a symbol in the United States since the nation did not declare war on Germany until April 1917. The American Legion has used the poppy as part of its fund raising efforts.
Maybe the United States should embrace the poppy as well. Why not create a commemorative coin with a colored poppy as the design and use the seignorage from the sales to support the work of the Department of Veterans Affairs? How about changing the reverse of the Roosevelt Dime to be a red-colored poppy to raise awareness of all our veterans? Using the Roosevelt Dime would give it a needed refresh and would tie both World Wars in one coin. Then the U.S. Mint could strike special silver dime for sale to the public.
Maybe it is an idea whose time has come.