Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was assigned as the Surgeon to the Canadian First Field Artillery Brigade.
He had served during the Boer War, and was no stranger to hardship and carnage, but the fighting in the Ypres Salient was so horrendous, that it caused him to write this as a sort of release, after he'd just buried a friend.
It was penned at the Dressing Station on the banks of the Canal de l'Yser.
Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to
newspapers in England.
'The Spectator', in London, rejected it, but 'Punch' published it on 8 December 1915.
He died while on active service on the 28 day of January, 1918.
Before his death, he wrote:
'In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row.
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amidst 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 lift it high.
If ye break faith with those who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies blow
In Flanders fields.
After the Great War, this poem was read at Armistice Day gatherings, celebrating the end of the 'War to End All Wars', on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Like Decoration Day - it was a time for reflection and for cleaning the gravestones of loved ones.
Then - some bright soul decided that - since folks were generally all off work - that they could also use their time to buy things - and they could buy even 'more' things and go places to spend money if they combined a couple of days set aside by a grateful Nation to honor their war dead, and re-named them to call them 'Veteran's Day' - and thus - the four-day weekend was born.
Go - buy stuff, and enjoy yourself - but in between trips to the mall - swing by the cemetary and take just a couple of minutes to tell someone 'Thanks'.
They'll appreciate the gesture.