Today is Veterans Day. A tradition that goes all the way back to World War I is the distribution/wearing/selling of poppies, because of the bloody battle in Flanders Field in Belgium and the subsequent growth of poppies in the demolished battlefield, on top of the soldiers’ graves. (EDITED: Thanks to Liz, who pointed out that the poppy tradition in the U.S. is actually on Memorial Day. My bad; I thought they were sold on both holidays!! Oops!)
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem called “In Flanders Fields” after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer (Source: wikipedia):
In Flanders Fields
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.
It’s been a long-standing tradition that veterans’ groups sell plastic poppies (or give them, in exchange for a donation) to commemorate Veteran’s Day. (Edited: yeah, Memorial Day. Ugh.) I remember going to visit my Grandparents when I was a kid, and seeing a fake poppy attached to my Grandfather’s rear view mirror, in his car. Many times. Back then I had no idea what the poppies were for, but I sure loved them!
After a while, he used to let me have them. I used to twist the little wire attached to the flower around my finger, so I could wear the poppy like a ring. I fiddled with them endlessly whenever I was lucky enough to get one, until the edges of the flower became shredded (because oh, by the way, when I was a kid they weren’t made of plastic: they were made of cloth!). Sometimes, the center of the flower, which was what was attached to the wire, would totally pop out because I messed with it too much. I’m not sure if any little girl every appreciated those poppies as much as I did!
Whenever I see those poppies these days, I think of Grandpa. In fact, I think I just might try to contact someone from our local VFW, to see if they have an extra poppy or two. I’d like to run out and get one.
On this day of Remembrance, I want to say thanks to all of our veterans (including my dad and my husband!) for all of their contributions, as well as to our active duty military for all that you do to keep us safe!!
Comments on this entry are closed.
Oh how I remember Grandpa with those poppies. The men who served and have served are an outstanding group and to my husband a special thanks for returning from Viet Nam. I love you and God bless.
Thanks for remembering.
Thanks. I've always seen the poppies, of course, but I never really knew the "why".
I never realized poppies were so few & far between in the USA! Here in Canada, today is called "Remembrance Day" and the poppy is by-and-large the biggest symbol (actually, as a kid, we used to call it "poppy day"). They sold poppies in schools (as a donation to war vets), and they still sell them in malls, subways, other public places.
Your personal memory seems to make the poppy a much more poignant symbol. 🙂
It's Rememberance Day here, too, and you can barely get to the supermarket without purchasing at least 3 from the sweet old dears who sell them.
We used to have a roster at school for who would help distribute the poppies for sale around town (our school used to help the Veterans Clubs) and it was always an honour to do it. I buy a poppy each year (except this year – I feel bad) and always wonder how my Grandad and his 3 uncles who were all killed could be so brave. It makes me thankful for the things I take for granted that they all fought for, and makes me worry a bit more for one of my best friends, who is due to go on service soon.
What a beautiful post.
And I echo what Katie from Canada said. It's Remembrance Day here, but in the end it's all the same 🙂
Very touching remembrances. Thank you for sharing with us.
I did some reading up on Veterans Day this year for the sake of accuracy. Turns out, I've been spelling it wrong all these years (there is no apostrophe). And, according to the VA, the poppies are intended for Memorial Day which honors those who have died in service to their country while Veterans Day honors and thanks who have served and are serving- living and dead, died in service, or died otherwise. I hadn't ever thought about it so much but I feel way smarterer for it now.
Must be in the DNA somewhere; I buy one from the Vets every Memorial Day, and wrap them around my rear-view mirror!!! There's one in my car right now. Didn't realize the connection to that habit with Grandpa. Wow.
It's odd, but I don't think I've ever been anywhere before that had poppies. It does make me giggle that you had a different holiday, but I love this post — and the poem!