header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Veteran's Day: Lest We Forget – Kristen Koster
Nov 112015
 
Poppy Installation at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

Poppy Installation commemorating the centenary of WWI at the Tower of London, August 10th, 2014.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Armistice Day. End of the war to end all wars.

Veteran’s Day.

My uncle turned 91 this fall and served as a WWII Marine. He’s always out every Memorial Day with the VFW selling poppies and impressing upon today’s youth (yup, that would be anyone younger than him!) the significance of the poppies and Flanders Fields. He’s genuinely disgusted when someone doesn’t know the importance of either. So if you’re asked to buy a poppy, be patient and appreciative for all the sacrifices our veterans have made over the years.

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.

–by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 3, 1915.

My uncle was just 18 when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His brother (younger by almost two years) lied about his age and went into the Navy right after. My uncle refuses to go to DC through the Honor Flight program. I had to take photos of the WWII Memorial while there to send to him. He doesn’t want any thanks or special recognition for what he did (a sentiment many vets share, they were just doing their duty to their country), but he believes in not just marking the cost of freedom, but that the poppies serve as a reminder.

Lest we forget.

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National WWII Memorial, Washington, D.C. April 2011.

  4 Responses to “Veteran’s Day: Lest We Forget”

Comments (4)
  1. Thank you for sharing this, Kristen. Your uncle sounds like an extraordinary man!

    ~Pam

    • Thanks, he is definitely something else, Pam! 😉

      His life experiences have been radically different than mine, that’s for sure. Sometimes it’s hard to remember he’s lived through so much change compared to what I’ve seen in just the second half of his life. He was 5 when the Great Depression started, 18 when WWII started, he was in his 40s and taking care of his mother and putting his “baby” sister through college as the Civil Rights movement was going on and right before we landed on the moon. But in other ways, he hasn’t changed a bit.

  2. I found this post while doing some research on your wonderful, informative site, and just had to comment. My father passed away in 2013 at the age 92, and his years “over there” were the highlight of his life, especially as he grew older, and even more so after my mother passed away in 2012. It always amazed me (and continues to amaze me, when I hear of men like your uncle) that the warriors who served in WWII were no more than boys when they enlisted. My dad, like your uncle’s brother (your other uncle?),also lied about his age and joined the Air Corps at 17. What a different generation they were; born at a time of relative prosperity, they lived through the Great Depression and learned the value of hard work as well as how to survive with little and to be thankful for whatever they had. I look at my own older teens and their peers, and am even more awed by what my father’s (and your uncles’) generation did.

    Even more awe-inspiring was the way they did it without fanfare, because it was just what needed to be done. My father was part of the 312th Air Squadron Repair Depot; planes damaged in battle or in crashes were shipped to them, and the 312th did whatever they needed to do to get them back into the air as soon as possible. They removed the burned and broken bodies of their brother-pilots, they Mickey Moused parts and pieces, they scrounged and scavenged, and they “just did whatever needed to be done”, as Dad put it. They didn’t think twice about how difficult it was, they just did their job and fought the enemy–a group of eighteen through twenty-four-year-olds–on an airfield in Italy, and later, in Africa, sometimes only a mile or so from the front line.

    Today, the men of the 312th continue to have reunions, even though only six of them are still alive or able; they come from all over the country, refusing to miss the opportunity to reconnect even though it’s hard for them to hear, to to see, and to move. We, their children, have taken over planning of the reunion–because we know how to use the internet–and the children and widows of the men who have passed go to the reunions in their fathers’ places because the men of the 312th were and are like a family, forged in war, maintained in peace and we are a part of it.

    So please, the next time you see your uncle, give him a hug for me and tell him “thank you” for a job well done, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. It’s what my Dad would have wanted me to say, and what he and all his brothers–the special, heroic men of that generation–deserve to hear, whether they want to or not. Hearing about him, at least, reminded me of Dad (as if I need reminding) and I could hear him whispering, “because it needed to be done, that’s all” in my ear. Such a special group of people; we can never replace or replicate them.

    God Bless!

    • Thank you for sharing about your father’s experiences and I will pass along your thanks to my uncle. Whether he likes it or not. =)

      My uncle’s ship holds reunions, but I liked hearing about how the 312th’s are run and held. But yes, it was definitely a different world and they are/were definitely a special group of people doing what needed to be done.

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