My sweet friend Simone bought an envelope of poppies for me last fall. I imagine that she told some sweet senior from the Canadian Legion the story of her friends who now live in Texas, but wanted to wear their poppies on Remembrance Day. I bet she slipped the veteran a twenty or maybe even more. Maybe the vet gave her a big hug. Or at least shared the story over some beers back at the Legion hall.
Those poppies are gracing the lapels and tops of several Canadians today: Bruce, my boss, me. Not sure about the other ex-pats I’ve listed, but today I’ve talked all about Remembrance Day and the veterans selling the poppies.
According to the Canadian Legion’s Poppy Campaign, “Every year, from the last Friday in October to Remembrance Day, The Legion conducts the Poppy Campaign. Canadians have donated money to support the services we provide and to clearly show their recognition of the debt owed to so many Canadians who gave their lives for our freedom.” It is a visual symbol that visibly unites the country from tv news anchors, to politicians, to school children, to captains of industry. Along with the poppy goes the idea of never forgetting—”lest we forget.”
The poppies themselves are a bit flimsy, nothing more than a fuzzy plastic backed cloth, held in place by a dangerous straight pin. Because of that pin, they frequently litter the floors of the subway stations and buses when crowds of people commute and brush against each other. Cynics might say that perhaps it is a tactic of the Legion to gain more funds for the Poppy Campaign, but everyone seems to be perfectly fine with replacing their poppy with a new one when it goes missing. Or perhaps even on the floor of the streetcar, a poppy reminds us of the brave men and women who have come before us.
In Flanders Field by John McCrae 1915
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.
My father is a US military veteran. I have many friends and family members who have served or who are serving. On this Veteran’s Day, I wear my poppy for them too because I wish we had a visible symbol in the US to show our vets that we have not forgotten them. It is a simple, yet deliberate act to wear a poppy, to drop your spare change into a bucket, take the poppy from a wrinkled and weathered hand and pin it to your coat. I know it means a lot to the Canadian veterans to see the seas of poppies everywhere. Wouldn’t it be nice if the US veterans could see something similar on Veteran’s Day? So today, I wear my poppy for them too.