As this year marks the centenary of World War I—the war to end all wars—Veterans Day 2014 takes on a particular solemnity as men and women across the globe mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, when major hostilities of World War I were finally silenced.
Red poppies have a special resonance on this day as the flowers dotted many of the battlefields of the First World War and were immortalized by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, who wrote in 1915:
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
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 falling 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.
In February 2012, the last veteran of World War I, 110-year-old Florence Green, a member of Britain's Royal Air Force, died in England. At the time, The New York Times reported
that Green went unrecognized as a veteran because she had served under her maiden name and lived out her life as a rather quiet British waitress. "For 90 years, no one knew her name," wrote the Times
. But her service was officially recognized in 2010, less than two years before her passing.
A stunning tribute to Green, British soldiers and the men and women who have worn their nation's uniform has emerged outside of Britain's Tower of London, where 888,246 ceramic poppies have been placed to remember each of the British men and women who died during World War I between 1914 and 1918. An estimated 5 million people have been to the castle to see the poppies. The British government has decided to turn floodlights onto the area so that people can continue visiting through the night.