Remembrance Day is this weekend on November 11th. In honor of this significant day in Canadian history, here is the history behind the poppy:
In 1915 Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian soldier, wrote the poem "In Flanders Fields." He did so on the battlefront of Ypres, Belgium during the first world war after seeing his dear friend, Alexis Helmer, killed by a German bomb. The poem was a reflection on war, loss, perseverance and the poppies that grew atop the graves of the fallen. Many soldiers recalled the hope these blossoming poppies gave them, that even after death something beautiful could grow.
In 1918 Moina Michael, inspired my McCrae's poem, vowed to always wear a red poppy in remembrance of those who served in the war. During a YWCA Overseas War Secretaries' Conference she wore a silk poppy, which she pinned to her coat, and handed out 25 others. She advocated that the poppy be made a symbol of remembrance, and so it was. Anna E. Guerin came up with the design for the artificial poppy and distributed it worldwide. In Canada, the money raised by these poppies is used to directly aid and remember veterans.
In Windsor, Ontario, a 99-year-old veteran of the Second World War hands out poppies every single year. His name is Arthur Anderson, and CBC News reports that he "[does] it for the fellas that never came [home]." While he may be getting frail with age, this is one tradition he will never stop.
Anderson was in the air force and was "shot down during Operation Market Garden, an Allied attempt to take all the bridges through to the Rhine River in western Germany" (CBC News). A Dutch man rescued him and his crew, caring for them while they hid for two months. When they decided to make "a break back towards the Allied lines across the river," they were caught by Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp (CBC News). When Germany began to fall, Anderson and the other prisoners were forced to walk towards Berlin. Thankfully, the Russian's caught up and liberated them.
CBC News notes, "when [Anderson] sees someone wearing a poppy leading up to Remembrance Day... it shows [him] that people honor the sacrifice of his friends and comrades who died. 'It means they care.'"
There are many ways we can honor our Veterans, such as advocating for better support for them when they return from the battlefront, exercising our right to vote--a right they fought for, and taking the time on November 11th to stop what we're doing and recognize all that they did.
Wearing a poppy is a way for you to say, "we care, and we thank you."
Here is John McCrae's poem, in "In Flanders Fields":
In Flanders fields the poppies blowBetween the crosses, row on row,That mark our place; and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing, flyScarce heard amid the guns below.We are the Dead. Short days agoWe 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 throwThe torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break faith with us who dieWe shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields.
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