A Day of Remembrance
The Royal Canadian Legion - History of the Poppy.
In Flanders Fields
by: John McCrae
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.
In Canada, we have our Remembrance Day on the 11th day of the 11th month. On the first of the month, blood red poppies with black centres decorate the lapels, coats and hats of many. The sale of poppies is by donation to the Royal Canadian Legion - only they are allowed to sell the poppies in Canada - and the money goes towards veterans, helping to meet their financial needs. We usually get a few of them, being sure to donate generously in the process. It's the least we can do.
For me, Remembrance Day an emotion filled day, becoming more so as I grow older and try to grasp in incredible sacrifice made by so many. For me, it's a day of solemnity and gratitude. Of sorrow and appreciation. I know I owe my life, as well as my freedom, to those who fought and died so many years ago. Where it not for them, I would never have been born. How many others are there that are alive today that wouldn't be, because so many were willing to put their lives on the line? I couldn't even begin to adequately acknowledge the gift I've been given.
More recently, however, it has started to become a day of anger, as well.
It seems to me, in our modern pampered world, we are breaking faith with those who died for us. Too many are not only forgetting the sacrifice so many have made, but they are twisting it to become something else entirely. I'm hearing people talk about "alternative" ways to celebrate instead of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day, I'm told, glorifies war and killing, and they want to find a "more peaceful" alternative. Today, I was horrified to read that there are people who are selling and wearing white poppies instead of the red! What a slap in the face to those who sacrificed everything - and by wearing an opium poppy, no less!
Remembrance Day isn't a day to glorify war and violence. It's a day to acknowledge the horrors that people suffered, and be thankful to those who were willing to endure it on our behalf. It openly reminds us that war is a horrible thing. Dispite that horror, there were still people willing to go to the front lines and fight. Why? Because they knew that if they didn't, life as they knew it would be over. The freedoms they enjoyed would end. Can you imagine if the world just sat back and said, "it's wrong to fight and kill, therefore we won't do it," when faced with someone like Hitler, busily killing millions? How would WWII have ended? With Hitler ruling the world? I need only to listen to my parents tell their stories, what little they are willing to discuss, about what it was like as an ordinary citizen - barely more than children - living under such conditions. How much worse would it have been had it been allowed to go on? It's because people we'll never know were willing to fight and die for what's right, that we even have the freedom to wear a white poppy, insulting the very people that gave us that freedom.
You'd think we would've learned our lesson, but obviously not. Otherwise intelligent people mouth platitudes about how evil war is, and if only we'd just give peace a chance. Just how, exactly, do they think we got this peace we've been enjoying for so many decades? By fighting a war, that's how! Because as long as there are madmen like Hitler and far too many others, war, violence and killing will be a fact of life in our world.
How ironic that the only way to truly achieve peace is by being willing to fight for it. Kill for it. Die for it.
That is the torch that's been passed on to us.
If we break faith; if we throw down that torch, we give up everything we value most. Our freedoms. Our families. Our lives.
I, for one, will always wear the red poppy.
I will hold the torch up high.
I will keep the faith.