As I'm surrounded by poppies on Remembrance Day, I can't stop the lines of In Flanders Fields running through my head. The poem, a moving symbol of remembrance world-wide, was written by Canadian doctor and soldier John McCrae.
A surgeon in the dressing stations in the Ypres Salient in 1915, McCrae had spent weeks tending the injured and dying when his friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, was blown up by a shellburst during the Second Battle of Ypres. With no chaplain available, McCrae performed a makeshift funeral service for Helmer under cover of darkness. Sitting on the back of an ambulance on a break the next day, McCrae looked over the scene in front of him and wrote the 15 lines that still strike a chord today. Alexis Helmer was just one of more than 60,000 Canadians who died during World War I. Another 170,000 were wounded.
Photo: Flanders Poppies
Tom Brakefield / Getty Images