Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and Armistice Day in much of the rest of the world.

This Remembrance Day, specifically, marks the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. Indeed, that event established the precise moment — the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — on which we annually commemorate the men and woman who have died in the line of duty serving our country in two World Wars and numerous regional conflicts over the past 100 years.

Those in Canada and Britain who wear the poppy to show their respect are also remembering Canadian Dr. Lt. Col. John McCrae. As an artillery officer in May, 1915, he wrote the poem In Flanders Fields, which has become an icon of Remembrance Day observances the world over. Few are aware that McCrae, himself, died during the War, of pneumonia, on January 18, 1918, commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill) at Boulogne, which he had been detailed to set up two and a half years earlier.

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.

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.

Though most of us wish there could be a final, definitive end to war, we know that conflict is fundamental to human nature. And we tend to overlook the fact that many of the technologies we take for granted today were forged in the crucible of war. It may comfort some to reflect that at least a little good has come out of all the pain and horror.

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