I'm interrupting my story for what I really did today, Sunday November 11th. It happens that I was back in Canada.
I went to a Remembrance Day ceremony at a public cenotaph. I realized as I dressed to go, that the symbolic poppy I had donated for had fallen off somewhere, so I went without one. The cenotaph was about fifteen blocks away, so I walked. As I arrived at the park, a child who had found a poppy on the ground was giving it to a uniformed veteran. The soldier saw I didn't have one, so gave it to me. I thanked him, explaining that mine always seem to fall off. He joked that they grease the pins so that they will.
Last year some readers told me that they didn't wear poppies, they wore flags, or yellow ribbons, and seemed to think they meant the same thing. There's nothing wrong with those symbols, but they aren't the same symbol, so I will reiterate.
Wear a flag to show that you support your country's efforts in an international war. (Or in a sports event, or just to show pride in your country.)
Wear a yellow ribbon because someone you care about is away at war and you hope and pray they come home safely.
Wear a poppy to remember all those who have gone to war for their countries. All countries.
I think about those who went to war and never came back, those who went to war and came back with parts missing, those who came back seemingly whole but broken inside, and those who somehow not only survived but became stronger for the experience; they came back and went straight to work making the country they had fought to defend a better place.
I think of those who signed up because they wanted to defend their countries, those who signed up because their friends were, those who signed up because their government promised them education or other opportunities in return, and of those who went because the government sent them a piece of paper saying it was their turn to go. I read in the paper of a soldier who went to war because he accidentally shot a neighbour's cow, and was given a choice between jail and enlistment.
Wearing a poppy and remembering those who served in the armed forces is not a political statement. It neither supports nor condemns any war nor any soldier's choice. It just acknowledges that they went, and the donation funds help veterans.
It's always cold and windy on Remembrance Day. The children whine and complain from cold and boredom, but I am glad their parents thought it was important enough to bring them to the memorial.
We went to the Remembrance Day celebration at our local church yesterday. My two younger children are in the Guides and Scouts so they were there in uniform, as was my wife. I was suited and wearing the poppy. I always find it difficult when the names are read out of those who never came back from 14-18 and 39-45. We are small village in the Cotswolds, and so many families lost some many sons and fathers. This year we had names from the Falklands and the Gulf (Part 1), again so many names...
If you have seen the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium, there are 10s of THOUSANDS listed, those whose bodies were never found. Deeply moving. Poppies are for the personal sacrifices made by soldiers, not for the politicians that put them there in the first place
Here in the US, poppies aren't really in evidence. When I used to go to Canada every other weekend to see my kids, I'd come back with one and wear it all week, and people didn't seem to know what it was. (BTW: If you take your multi-tool and fold back the tip, they don't fall off, but of course you need to use tools to change your shirt which is a bit inconvenient.)
I got to participate in a couple of 11/11 ceremonies when I was in the army reserve. It's very moving. Even if your legs are going numb from wearing a kilt.
Even if you're not a big fan of his music, Garnet Rogers "11:11" always captures the mood for me.
I was down in the USA last week (Wed&Thu), and I wore my poppy. The folks at security screening were (surprisingly) not excited about the straight pin - I was half expecting them to consider it to be unsafe.
But nobody in our US office knew anything about the wearing of the poppy. When asked, I had them Google "In Flander's Fields" - and then they understood why I wear it.
When flying out of Dulles I was stopped by the gate agent, who recalled that I flew in two days earlier. I have flaming orange/red hair (which she didn't remember). But she remembered the poppy.
Thanks for this post.
Thanks for remembering.
- A Vet
Thank you for wearing your poppy. It used to be a regular thing that vets would be outside the markets selling them but no more. I don't have one anymore. But I have [i] In Flanders Fields [/i] on my computer and read it every year.
My oldest brother was shot and was a POW in Germany after Omaha beach and it changed my Dad in ways that could never be explained. My brother came home but he was never the same.
Now friends sons are not coming home from places with foreign names and we must remember them as well.
The poppy wearing is simply not a contemporary practice in the US, so I wouldn't judge those who aren't wearing them too harshly. The first time I saw them worn was in Canada, and I was unfamiliar with their symbolism, too.
Thank you for remembering.
I was in Flanders six weeks ago, and highly recommend a visit to the Ypres Salient. It is horrific what everyone who was there went through.
"In Flanders Fields" has some real meaning for me now.
My blog on the experience: http://www.inknimage.com/node/35
Keep up the good work, Aviatrix. I found this site about a year ago and love reading it. Hopefully next year I will get to join you in the Canadian skies.
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