Thursday, 10 November 2011

Poppy: my symbol of remembrance

Every year, for as long as I can remember I have proudly wore a poppy on my coat from Halloween to November 11th. For me, the poppy is a symbol of what so many young men and women gave up for the life that I have today.

When I was little and in elementary school I can remember lining up in the main hallway at 11:11 on the 11th of November, proudly wearing my poppy on my clothes and observing a minute of silence. It really didn’t mean very much at that age.

In High School it got a little more formal, there was a assembly in the auditorium and there would be a sole trumpeter and a line of Veterans, I’m sure lead by Mr. McLean one of the most senior teachers in the school.

I think the fact that by the time I graduated from High School I was the same age of many of the men who had given their lives at war – whether they wanted to or not was starting to make me appreciate our veterans and develop a new respect for the date as well.

After High School, through University and working in the hospital I continued to purchase my poppy from the Veteran on the corner, at the grocery store or in the shop – normally several times a season because I often lost them or left it on another coat. The opportunity to look into the eyes of someone who had witnessed horror that I couldn’t imagine and say thank you – whether for simply the poppy or what they had given up to stand there that day, it was important enough to keep buying them.

And then the depictions of the various war situations started to become popular in the cinema, Saving Private Ryan and the opening sequence which left me nauseous and in tears was hard to fathom, television series like Band of Brothers brought you inside the lives of the young men and their experiences. It was hard from then to think of Remembrance Day and not see a few of those images and imagine what they had witnessed.

To this day, I wear my poppy, even here in Ireland. Granted I don’t have the same yearly experience of buying my poppy over and over, instead I keep it safe and pull it out at Halloween every year. I have a spare – somewhere and have added a small Canadian flag as the pin to make it that little more secure. This way I have less chance of losing it as it would be much harder to replace.

I wear my poppy with pride, with the memory of the very young men – now younger than myself –who stepped up when they may not have wanted to, did not understand what they were to experience and gave so very much for the people of today. My pride is not political, it’s neither pro-war or propaganda, it’s a recognition to men and women, young and old that what they went through means something to me every day, but especially on November 11th.

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.

                                            -John McCrae

No comments: