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This Month from Cliff

This Month from Cliff

September 18, 2014


Honoring Our Veterans

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.

Excerpt from “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae


Tuesday November 11 is the day the United States honors its veterans.  Honoring veterans is something we should all do every day.  When you meet a veteran, thank him or her for their extraordinary service to our great country.

“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as ‘The Great War.’  Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United State in 1938.  In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.”

I first learned about Veterans Day and its significance as a small boy on a trip downtown with my grandmother whom I called Granny Shanks.  Every week, my grandmother would catch the trolley car from our Lakewood neighborhood in Dallas and travel “downtown” to the central business district to shop.  Often, she would take me or one of my siblings and this was a special treat for us.

One Veterans Day, I accompanied her on her weekly outing.  While shopping, Granny Shanks stopped and bought a paper poppy to pin to her dress.  I asked what the poppy was for and she said, “I’m wearing this for my brother Jesse who died at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France in World War I.”  Years later, I was in France on an art tour.  On a crisp September morning, we were on a bus on our way to Charte.  Our driver said we had some time and we were approaching the American Cemetery where those who died in the Battle of Belleau Wood are buried.  It was a beautiful day and a bright blue sky covered the cemetery with its red brick fence, majestic trees, rose bushes and standards of crosses and stars of David row on row.  I suddenly remembered my Great Uncle Jesse and went to the guard house where an American soldier was on duty.  This was pre-computer and I asked if he could tell me if there was a Jesse Norris buried there.  He went through a large directory and found the name.  He walked me to a far corner of the cemetery and there it was: Jesse Norris, 19, McKinney, Texas.  I was moved to tears and this moment in time was stored in my memory.  So I always buy a poppy and I wear it for Jesse.  I also wear it for my brother Don who spent 25 years in the Navy and died in a Veterans Hospital.

My Grandmother (Granny Shanks) – Far right, Jesse Norris – shortest boy, two to the left of my Grandmother, stand in front of their farm house.  This farm in McKinney, Texas and the battlefield in Belleau Woods are the only two places Jesse spent his life.

So as we approach this Veterans Day, I ask you to join me in remembering and in thanking all of those who have provided special service, some at the cost of their lives, for all they have done and continue to do.

This Month from Cliff