Putting football to the side for a moment, I just wanted to thank any veterans that happen to be reading the site. 82 years ago today, the 'War to end all Wars' ended in Europe with the German signing of the Armistice. Unfortunately, a lot of World War I history has gone to by the side, with memories of the Second World War being fresh on the mind. In 1954, the United States changed Remembrance Day to Veterans Day, to honor all veterans. In the United Kingdom, they still honor the Armistice with two minutes of silence at 11:00.
The poppy's used both in the Commonwealth and the United States today are a reference to a 1919 poem by John McCrae, 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.
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.
Personally, I spent 5 years in the United States Marines, mostly as a helicopter mechanic on CH-46D/E, UH-1N and AH-1W helicopters at Camp Pendleton, CA. I was in a maintenance squadron, which means we weren't actually doing any of the flying, but in our support role, we interacted with the Crew Chiefs on an almost daily basis. Many times, the CH-46 crew would feel a vibration or something and want to have the rotor blades weighed and balanced, which was one of the things that I did (a blade with too much weight on the end travels slower than a blade with too little, which can really strain the rotor head and transmission.)
I got to know one crew chief pretty well...Staff Sergeant Kendall Weathers-by. He was a pretty laid back person, unlike a lot of others that were always stressed about their bird and he always treated me right. Unlike most of the others, he'd actually get off his ass and help me move the blades and weigh them. He was the crew chief the first time I went for a ride in a Phrog, returning from a work-up on the USS Boxer as part of the Millennium Challenge in 2001. I have no clue who the pilot was, but they broke from the formation we were flying in, climbing in altitude, so the other Phrogs looked like ants. He then dumped the bird onto it's side and we fell out of the sky a couple thousand feet before he righted the aircraft and put us back into the formation. SSgt. Weathers-by feigned puking and had me laughing my ass off.
Fast forward to 2003 and a significant portion of our flightline was deployed to Kuwait and the Persian Gulf for the impending invasion of Iraq. At midnight, March 19, I saw what I've often said was the most awesome fireworks show ever, when you could see the missiles being fired off the Allied ships in the Gulf. After waiting for a little while, we'd go inside to watch on TV as the missiles were hitting their targets.
The next day, we received word that a CH-46 from HMM-364 had crashed on it's way back to the base, killing everyone aboard, the pilot, co-pilot, door gunner, 9 British Royal Marines and SSgt. Weathers-by. A servo valve that controlled a hydraulic system failed and apparently the pilot was unable to recover. SSgt. Weathers-by left behind a wife and a son...who looked just like him.
Today, I think about him and the thousands, probably millions that have made the ultimate sacrifice...either here in the States or in one of the Commonwealth countries. Men and women who also had families to return to...but couldn't.
Semper Fidelis, Staff Sergeant.