(By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) – Canadian Army)

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.

3 Responses to “REMEMBRANCE”

  1. Saggio says:

    Let peace be their remembrance.

  2. admin says:

    Damn straight – but does anyone find it ironic that the Canucks and Brits over in Afghan country are wearing poppies in remembrance…when essentially what they’re there for is to protect ‘legit’ oil interests and not-so-legit poppy/opium farming???

  3. tobias says:

    This will be a long post but I wanted to forward this recent dispatch from a close friend, david, who is a doctor currently working with Medecins Sans Frontiers in Chad. He’s a remarkable man and I always find his thoughts worth reading, and this one – his version of a remembrance day essay – is particularly affecting.


    At my medical school, we used to revere a former graduate whose name was William Osler, and hardly a day went by without our hearing about one of his exploits or maxims. Especially famously, he once wrote that humanity really only has three enemies—fever, famine and war, but that by far the worst of these was fever. That’s what I fully expected to confirm here in this exposed and sweltering desert, where you cannot but become more porous with time, closer and closer to the sand, like a sieve struggling to stay intact.

    But Osler lived before penicillin, it is now proven that famine rarely occurs without war, and I was posted to a particularly volatile part of the African Sahara. I now have to reconsider my expectation.

    It is impossible to fully understand the movements and counter currents that are ripping the already desolate margins between Chad and the Sudan into smaller and smaller pieces. I have had briefings, I have looked at maps, I have listened to the BBC on our precious short wave transistor. As with most modern conflicts, it is fuelled by discreet but powerful outside forces wanting a share of the region’s underground riches or it’s consequent need for arms. This conflict ignores boundaries, and predictably, multiple sides are backed the same powerful sponsors. Our headquarters monitor the situation and decide when to reduce our medical team out of prudence, when to let down our guard, or when to evacuate outright. But to me, it is all just a complicated jumble of senseless razing and slaying and retaliation.

    I have seen some awful things. I can’t relate all of these, either because I still don’t believe them, or because I do but don’t want to, or because I can’t find the words to give the victims justice. And the worst affected never even make it close to our field hospital, a small enclave in this vast and empty wasteland.

    There are many kinds of victims. There are the innocent bystanders, hit by shrapnel or stray bullets while hiding or running for cover. If they are lucky, the bullet will rip through flesh but nothing more vital, and come out cleanly. But more often, the bullet will have already acquired a certain degree of spin, and leave a large swath of gory damage in its path. Often, I can’t do anything but relieve the pain. Sometimes, the bullet will stay lodged just under the skin and then, I look forward to the satisfying sound of bullet against sterile metal basin, and the innocent smile that usually earns. Once however, I removed a bit of metal from a small boy’s foot, his other foot deformed from a childhood burn, and he gave me a silent tear instead. It fell slowly onto the floor of our small procedure room and evaporated instantly into the sand.

    There are of course soldier victims that we cannot ignore despite, or perhaps especially because of, our fierce neutrality. We have a tense relationship with the soldiers. Our patients fear them, with good reason. They try to acquire small privileges and we refuse. When we insist that they stay to mend their crippling wounds they get dispatched, despite themselves, back to the front. The smell of rotting flesh lingers in the triage tent that we have erected, hoping to avoid giving the inside of the hospital a military character. But we still refer to our area as a compound, we still wake up at 0600 hours, and we still surround ourselves with sandbags. Here, we all live, despite ourselves, in a state of war.

    Then there are the women victims, and I cannot yet bear to say more.

    But mostly there are the subtle victims, the hordes of people who had to leave hut and cattle behind to find safer surroundings. They are the malnourished, the scared, and the confused. The hundreds of children, exposed to the elements, consumed by violent, feverish fits of malaria every week. The hungry boy whose brother, equally hungry, burned a hole through his face, exposing half a gaping jaw. The brave mother who gave birth to a lifeless child because she was too far away. I had never witnessed a stillbirth before. It is utterly tragic—child flaking and fluid—mother too shaken to cry.

    And then, there is Mariam. Adorable seven year old, whose knee swelled from a sickle cell crisis, but whose mother, not knowing better and without ready access to a doctor, resorted to the prevalent traditional treatment for just about any ailment here—she incised where it hurt. But Mariam’s knee suppurated and now she cannot walk, she will never walk, she will always dream of walking. We gave her antibiotics, we made crutches, we gave mother and child food and comfort, but mostly, we cried when they were not looking. I told Mariam that she could put stickers all over her shiny blue crutches, but she did not know what stickers were. So, I made her a happy face sticker with a bit of white medical tape, but she just looked back at me, confused.

    Before I came here, I believed that war was not inherent to human kind, that somehow, with enough will and justice and restraint, we could evolve into a peaceful species. Weren’t we at peace back home after all? But now, I wonder whether struggle for land or resources or the upper hand isn’t simply part of who we are. The resources here are largely exported overseas. Conversely, maybe we export our wars—it is much cleaner, and easier to not have to shed blood and tears all the time.

    But I still believe in individual conviction.

    My grandfather was arrested by the Nazis for his involvement in the Czech resistance during the war and was swiftly deported to the Terezin concentration camp. Before I came here, my father gave me a reproduction of a sketch that now hangs in the camp’s museum. It shows him operating on a fellow prisoner, with a razor blade. I hung the sketch in my mud hut as soon as I arrived here, and now look forward to taping it back to the grimy wall every morning.

    It reminds me that increadibly, things could be much worse. That our work is a gift, and service to others, a duty. And that maybe, if enough of us think so, despite the pain and brutally in this raw world that we are all witness to, things can still get better.

    Maybe Osler was right, after all—maybe our greatest obstacle is merely what we feel we can do something about.

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