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Honoring Those Who Defend Us!

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Friday, November 11th, 2011 (11/11/11)

New Orleans, Louisiana


Many soothsayers are excited about what may happen on 11/11/11.  They consider the number 11 to be a Master Number. According to those believers, on this special day, you can use mind power to actualize what you want in your life. For them, it is a day to look forward. But there are those, like yours truly, who  acknowledge that this is a special day, but for a totally different reason. For us, November 11 is a day to look back, to remember — the special day to honor the millions of veterans who served and fought throughout this century to protect our right to be free.

November 11th is Veterans Day.  Few Americans know the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, which is celebrated in May.  Veterans Day honors all those who served in any military capacity.  Memorial Day commemorates those who gave their lives in service to America.  And there are countries worldwide that have adopted this day to remember and honor those who served in the many wars of the 20th century.  Services and ceremonies will take place on Friday in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, France, Belgium, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland, just to name a few.

For many Americans, Veterans Day is just another holiday to get off work.  There is quite a contrast to this attitude in Great Britain.  The military celebration there is called Remembrance Day, and it is held on the Sunday closest to November 11.  There are church services throughout the country, and there are parades of ex servicemen and women in towns and villages from north to south. In both world wars, London was under heavy attack from the Germans with nightly air raids, and the Brits were much more personally touched than we were.  I witnessed the emotion of this special day on a trip to London a few years back.

I had landed at Gatwick Airport on Remembrance Day, and took a cab from Victoria Station to my hotel, dropped off my bags, and had the driver take me to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Designed by Christopher Wren, with its great dome that stood defiant to the blitz of German planes night after night, this has always been one of my favorite churches. Princess Diana was married here, and this famous cathedral has witnessed the burials of so many who impacted history, from Lord Nelson to Winston Churchill.

It seems as if everyone in the city wears a poppy to commemorate the huge British losses during World War I. More than 59,000 British soldiers are buried among the poppies in Flanders Fields in Belgium. Every school child learns of Major John McCrae, a Canadian doctor who tended to the dying on the battlefield and wrote the memorable war poem “In Flanders Fields.”

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.[1]


Being able to be a part of the service at St. Paul’s is a special honor for anyone in the city. The Lord Mayor of London is always in attendance, along with numerous other public officials. Following a traditional ceremony full of pomp and circumstance, a parade winds through the business district, with most of those who attend the service joining in. A large contingent of World War I veterans make their way through the streets of London. It’s a moving sight to see.

When I arrived at St. Paul’s for the 10:00 A.M. service, the church was already full. People milled around outside the church, hoping to find a place to sit. An elderly female usher pointed at me and told me it would be very difficult to find a seat. I was dressed in a British-cut suit and needed a haircut, so perhaps she mistook me for a Londoner. She asked if by chance I was a member of the St. Paul’s Society.

The society has a building fund to maintain the church. A few years before, I had made a ten-pound donation (about sixteen dollars) to join the society. When I acknowledged that I was a member, she checked her membership book to confirm my donation, then led me down the center aisle to the front pews and sat me right behind the Lord Mayor. That was certainly one of the most farsighted donations I ever made.

On this special Friday, I will join what I hope to be a large group of fellow veterans and their families in my hometown of Baton Rouge at a special ceremony to be held at Louisiana’s Old State Capitol.  The ceremony is being sponsored by the USS Kidd Foundation, which supports a battleship that is permanently located there.

So on this Friday, November 11th, I won’t be concerned about any mystical meaning of 11/11/11.  I’ll pin a poppy on my jacket, join the families at our special Veteran’s Day celebration, and give thanks to the many who served and died, so that I would have the freedom to write each week about whatever I wish. I hope in some small way, you, too, will remember.


“But this Veterans Day, I believe we should do more than sing the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we are treating our veterans in the present.”
Nick Lampson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the country.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com.   You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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