My wife came home from work one day this week and shared that she had met a woman in the lobby of the hotel who asked what the poppies were for.
Taken aback, as I would be, my wife paused for a moment before explaining the significance of the bright red poppies so readily available at this time of year – to commemorate the soldiers who have served, are serving, and who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy (or “too often take for granted.”).
The woman thought that the display of a red poppy on your lapel or over your heart was a great idea and said that she would take some home to the States with her.
I am a proud Canadian. Born and raised here with the opportunity to do some travel in other countries; Canada is a great and beautiful country. Every year I wear a poppy in solemn respect for the sacrifices of many. My great-uncle, Pte. John Gee was killed in WW2, my grandfather, Sgt. Charles Rowley served in WW2, my wife’s grandfather, Sgt. William Cox served in WW2, my grandmother’s husband served in Korea, and my father served in the Canadian Navy. I am sure there are others in the family line. To me, my family, and millions of Canadians the red poppy is a natural symbol.
So when the woman at the hotel asked “What’s The Flower?” (WTF) I went online and asked my American friends if they wore red poppies on and around Remembrance Day. I had thought it was a universal symbol. I thought nothing different.
I thought wrong.
I was made aware that while many of the northern states were aware of the poppy and it’s meaning, the further south you go, the less and less it is known. Very few American’s wear a poppy, but some do, particularly in northern states bordering with Canada. It’s a simple but poignant act of commemoration.
This morning I participated in the Remembrance Day service in our city, as I have since my son became a Royal Canadian Army Cadet. I took in the experience as a couple hundred people joined together in peaceful remembrance. No one celebrated violence or combat as the people behind the white poppy movement would have you believe. There was only honour to those who served. And everyone proudly displayed a red poppy – our symbol of honour. Together, many likely not knowing, that we were part of something uniquely Canadian.
Everyone has a story. Together, today, we honour those whose stories are the building blocks of our freedom.
For more information on the poppy campaign and it’s history, click here to visit the Royal Canadian Legion website.