“The brown band of battlefields interlocked a confused mass of troubled earth. Yet the poppies ever rendered hope someday nature would mend what mankind had undone.”
– Brian Hardy
A little over a century ago on a street corner in Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip fired the shot that started World War I when he killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg Empire. He was a 12th-grade student, born in Bosnia Herzegovina, which had recently been acquired by the Habsburg Empire; aka Austria-Hungary, just a few hundred miles from where Adolf Hitler was born. Princip was sentenced to 20 years in prison. And little did he know he’d be dead before the guns of World War I fell silent. He died in prison in 1918 a year before it ended.
“History's most famous teenager was to become history's most toxic troublemaker for Germans for the next 30 years.”
– Mia Hauptman
Gavrilo Princip’s dream to punish the Habsburgs by shooting the Archduke was a "grand gesture" to inspire others to rise up against this enemy. It worked, but at a bloody cost. His hatred triggered a war nobody ever anticipated. Millions died, empires fell and Europe was to never be the same. Yes, it drove out the Austro-Hungarians and the Slavs united to form Yugoslavia; but it took a world war to do this. And it wasn’t until the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the world would be at peace. The armistice was declared as the bloodiest battle in modern history ended five years after the killing of Ferdinand with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.
“The inescapable price of liberty is an ability to preserve it from destruction.
– Douglas MacArthur
WWl touched the lives of every person on this earth. By the time the final bomb was dropped and the last patriot killed, the world wondered if we could ever live in “peace.” Soldiers who returned lived the rest of their lives with the physical and mental scars of Princip’s tragic mistake. The war machine consumed those who viewed the war through cameras, newspapers, newsreels, and on radio. Everyone was aware, "Without freedom there can be no ensuring peace and without peace no enduring freedom.” The world was shocked back into the reality the day this holocaust ended!
“Can we ever recall how we lived in peace? Can we ever Give Peace a Chance?"
– John Lennon
People from sea to shining sea where chaotically joyous yet bewildered. How could they start the healing while 13 million world patriots died to bring world peace? How can anyone celebrate the end of a pernicious tragedy that killed and maimed so many? As the shock of ending “the shots heard round the world” set in, the tears of joy turned into silence for those who could not be there to cheer with them. A saddened Melbourne journalist, Edward Honey, wrote a comforting proposal for all nations of the world to show appreciation for the end of warring and respect the day peace was restored: “Let us set this day to always remember the armistice with a monument of silence.”
Upon hearing this, British King George V proposed a period of silence for national remembrance on the day the armistice was etched in history. He issued a proclamation on Nov. 7, 1919, for two minutes of silence. He said "all locomotion should cease, so that, in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”
This tradition was shortly adopted in non-Commonwealth countries, and spread throughout the world. Nations welcomed a compromise to celebrate the armistice by dedicating a day to those who made it possible with a few minutes of impassioned benediction. It was called “Remembrance Day” for a world that needed mending fences and show gratitude for the armistice that bought them peace. Although they knew there's no war that will end all wars, they wanted to celebrate peace on this very day.
"The legacy of heroes is of those who set the greatest example."
– Benjamin Disraeli
As days turned into months, war stories were willingly divulged by those lucky to reveal them. One soldier recalled the front lines were brown belts of murdered nature; a wasteland of churned up soil, smashed woods, fields and streams. Few elements of creation could survive this carnage. Only occasionally faint sights and sounds of nature could be seen and heard through the fog of battle. One of those was the hearty red field poppy. The sight of these vibrant flowers growing on the shattered ground inspired a soldier, John McCrae, to write a poem for a fallen soldier friend.
“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.”
– John McCrae
Moina Michael, working at a New York-based training center for the YMCA in 1918, was browsing through a magazine and was attracted by a vivid picture of poppies, and read the poem McCrae had written for his departed friend. It was at that moment she felt as though she was being called by the voices that had been silenced by death, to bring life to the sacrifices they made for peace. She hurried to a nearby store and returned with 25 silk poppies to adorn the offices. She made a pledge to always wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields every 11th day of the 11th month every year.
“I did what needed to be done for those who brought us peace.”
– Moina Michael
She began a tireless campaign starting with her congressman and the War Department. She acted swiftly so this new national emblem would be produced on pins, postcards and even the stationary that was used at the time of signing the treaty at Versailles in June 1919. This one determined lady started a campaign that went ballistic! Once The American Legion adopted the poppy as a symbol, the entire country followed, and then the world. The French and British first welcomed this, then the rest of Europe joined them. Today, it is a badge of honor worn by the Royal British Legion. One lady with meager resources spread a message of peace and honor to every nation in the world. Michael passed in 1944. But her memory remains within a bust in the lobby of Georgia state capital today.
“Moina Michael brought a special brand of faith to a world when it needed healing.”
– Brian Hardy
As the years passed, and nature resurrected life on the once decimated battlefields, the red poppy blossomed ever more heartily than before. Every nation, including those who had not participated in the war, celebrated “Remembrance Day” in their own special traditions with unique ceremonies for what it meant to them. To some, it is Armistice Day, others Ring of Remembrance, and on June 1, 1954, in the U.S., it became a day to honor all American veterans and renamed Veterans Day.
“I hope our citizenry will never forget all of those who brought them peace."
– President Dwight Eisenhower
In 380 BC, Plato told us, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Princip had the luck of the devil.
In the eyes of the Slavs, he is a liberator. In the eyes of the world, he was the most hated for starting a war that has never ended. He ushered in an era of the most cruel dictators in world history, who’ve left remnants of their dirty work all over Europe. And ethnic wars in Serb communities continue today. The great Douglas MacArthur got it right: “Men since the beginning of time have sought peace.”
Moina had read "In Flanders Fields" before, but on that day she was transfixed by the last verse as if it was a spirit calling out to her to make the red poppy the symbol for peace:
“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.”
– John McCrae
William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13.
A World War I Memorial That’s Worth A Visit!
Anthem Veterans Memorial
England's Stonehenge, Egypt's Karnak or Abu Simbel has nothing on the United States of America's Anthem Veterans Memorial.
Our memorial even has a plaque pedestal to explain it all.
Archeologists of the future won't have to guess what the site is all about.
The below photographs courtesy the Anthem Community Council
Once a year at 11:11 A..M., the sun shines perfectly on this Memorial.
At precisely 11:11 A.M., each Veterans Day (Nov. 11), the sun's rays pass through the ellipses of the five Armed Services pillars to form a perfect solar spotlight over a mosaic of The Great Seal of the United States.
The Anthem Veterans Memorial, located in Anthem, Arizona, is a monument dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of the United States armed forces.
The pillar provides a place of honor and reflection for veterans, their family and friends, and those who want to show their respects to those service men and women who have and continue to courageously serve the United States.
The memorial was designed by Anthem resident Renee Palmer-Jones.
The five marble pillars represent the five branches of the United States military.
They are staggered in size (from 17 feet to 6 feet) and ordered in accordance with the Department of Defense prescribed precedence, ranging from the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Navy, the United States Air Force and the United States Coast Guard.
Additionally, the brick pavers within the Circle of Honor are inscribed with the names of over 750 U.S. servicemen and women, symbolizing the 'support' for the Armed Forces.
The pavers are red, the pillars are white, and the sky is blue to represent America's flag.
The circle represents an unbreakable border.
Anthem resident and chief engineer, Jim Martin, was responsible for aligning the memorial accurately with the sun.
Home of the free…because of the brave!