This is my weekly column. In Canada, Remembrance Day is on November 11th but because it is next Monday I had to write my Remembrance Day column this week:
A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn on the lapel of a men’s suit. In many Commonwealth countries, poppies are worn to commemorate soldiers who have died in war, with usage most common in the week leading up to Remembrance Day (and Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand). The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I secure my red poppy to my sweater and proudly wear the symbol of Remembrance Day over my heart. I get the poppy from a friendly member of the Legion standing guard at the grocery store over his cache of poppies in a container that has seen better days. I scramble around in my purse for some money to slip into the slot as the purveyor of poppies says, “Don’t worry if you don’t have any money” and then when I succeed in finding a dollar seventy-five, not enough in my mind, but enough for him to say “Would you like two?” And I gratefully accept two.
So many of us do not carry money anymore, using plastic to pay for groceries and gas and other daily needs, but I am trying to remember to carry it for occasions such as these—for my red poppy around Remembrance Day, for a hot dog sponsored by a charity, for the offerings of the Girl or Boy Scouts, for the Salvation Army at Christmas. These people do not trade in plastic, they trade in real life loonies and toonies, and five and ten dollar bills, and dare I say it — the occasional twenty.
I think of Remembrance Day as a sacred day, a day of honour, a day I want to give thanks for those who put their lives on the line. I am happy to live in our country of Canada, a country where freedom reigns even though we grouse over the way it is run. We have the freedom to grouse and that is something to celebrate. And this freedom is directly related to those who guard it.
I am honoured to don a poppy. To wear it with pride. And to share my second one with a member of my family to wear proudly. I am also thrilled that when I went to buy my poppy I was told that the money was not necessary—for it was more important to the man who was offering them that they be worn, than they be paid for. But of course, the money for the poppies is necessary. I went to the Canadian Legion website and found out why.
According to the site, the Poppy “has stood as a visual symbol of our Remembrance Day since 1921”, but before that “its presence over the graves of soldiers, and in the fields of honour was noted as early as the 19th century” but the “reason for its adoption over 100 years later in Canada, was due to, in no small part, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae and his now famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”….written in May 1915 “following the death of a fellow soldier.”
Though there is an international connection, the site stresses that “it is today that the importance of the Poppy as the Flower of Remembrance in Canada is even more evident” and “these red flowers can be seen on the lapels and collars of so many, and this single act ensures that our memories of those who died in battle will remain strong.”
So, where does the money go that we search our purses for and bring out our moth ridden wallets? “Donations received during the Poppy Campaign annually raise more than $14 million for the support of Veterans and their families.” According to the Legion site, “Poppy Funds are held in trust and the usage is clearly defined.”
Veterans Affairs Canada once oversaw the production of the poppies, but once it became impractical for them to maintain the operation, the Legion volunteered to take on the responsibility, and the production of the poppies is Canadian based and under strict Legion control and oversight. The Lapel poppy first showed up in 1922 and “serves as a symbol of unity for those who recognize the sacrifices that were made for… freedom and….forges a bond between people of all ages, not only within Canada, but around the world.”
The poppy has not been without controversy. In a 2010 article on the MSN News Canada Site, “Folo”, Corrine Milic poses this question: “Is there room for both flowers in Remembrance Day ceremonies? A red poppy to remember the sacrifices military men and women have made in the past and continue to make today. A white poppy to inspire a more peaceful future?”
The words of my generation in the lyrics of “WAR” sung aggressively by Edwin Starr advocate another way to bring peace. He sang:
Chorus: (War) good God y’all, (What is it good for?)
Absolutely nothing,….. Say it again–
(War, what is it good for?) Absolutely nothing….
Verse 4: Peace, love and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s gotta be a better way.”
Until we find a better way, I say thank you to all those striving for peace and freedom. Join me on the 11th at the 11th hour of the 11th month to remember those who have tried and those who are trying to find “a better way.”