Monday, November 7, 2016

Remembrance Poppy

On Sunday we observed the Act of Remembrance during our worship service.  On Friday, across Canada and elsewhere in the world, nations will pay tribute to their soldiers, past and present, with parades, prayers and promises.  We do this in every community, large or small, because each has been touched by war, particularly The Great War of 1914 - 1918, and World War II, 1939 - 1945.  It was these two world-wide conflicts that reached into nearly every home and village of Canada.  Between the two conflicts, over 1.7 million Canadians served in the military, over 100,000 died, over 225,000 others were wounded.
 In the aftermath of such loss and sorrow, citizens felt a need to honour and remember their fallen, so they built memorials, some grand some simple, but all heartfelt.

There are more than 6200 war memorials across Canada.
     Sadly, Canada continues to lose lives to international conflict,  the Korean war, peacekeeping missions, the war in Afghanistan.  Despite the promise that The Great War was the "war to end all wars," and the oft repeated "lest we forget," the roll call of the dead and injured grows year after year.
  One of the most visible symbols of our common sorrow is the poppy, worn on the left lapel or over the heart, first adopted in 1921 when Anne Guerin, of France travelled to Britain and Canada to convince the Veterans Association (predecessor of the Canadian Legion) to designate the poppy as their symbol of remembrance. She was inspired in part by Canadian John McCrae's poem, "In Flanders Fields."
   Originally, the poppies were made by disabled veterans as a means to earn a small income for themselves and their families.  In 1996, the responsibility for manufacturing the poppies passed from Veterans Affairs Canada to the Royal Canadian Legion. Those donation boxes raise approximately $14 million per year. The money is used for programs and for financial assistance to veterans and their families. During the Legion’s annual poppy campaign, an estimated 18 million poppies are distributed in Canada and overseas.
  Traditionally the poppy is worn from the last Friday in October to the end of the day on November 11.  In 2000 a new tradition was born when crowds of people removed their poppies after Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa and placed them on the grave of the unknown soldier.  No organization ordered or requested or planned this deed.  It was a spontaneous outpouring of respect and grief from the people standing there that day.  Since then the tradition has spread to every memorial service in the country.
   The centre of the Lapel Poppy was originally black, reflecting the actual colours of the poppies in Flanders.  In 1980 the centre was changed to green to symbolize the fields of France, but in 2002 the centre was changed back to black.

   Because the lapel poppy has a tendency to fall off and become lost, many people like to secure it with a small Canadian flag pin. The Legion discourages this practice as they see the poppy as a sacred symbol of remembrance that should not be defaced in any way.  That said, they'd rather you wore a poppy with a pin in the centre than no poppy at all.  I've found this method of attaching the poppy, where I use the pin to catch the bottom edge of the petal, works well.
However you wear your poppy, wear it with respect and with gratitude.

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