Why the poppy for remembrance?

Hear Everything | November 01 2013

This issue of The Stew is about remembering and there are dozens of ideas I had about memory, health care, sports injuries (concussions), muscle memory, etc., but because of the significance of November 11 in our
society, I chose to focus on that. November 11 is a very important day in the world. It is a day where we wear poppies in remembrance of soldiers lost in war. It serves to remind us of the sacrifices they made to give us the freedoms we enjoy. Although I live in the US, I have a poppy that my father brought me long ago when I first moved here, and I wear it proudly. It prompts many questions from people since it is not as much of a tradition as it is in Canada. When I first moved here, I wore a poppy in the week before Remembrance Day, and when asked why I wore it, I honestly couldn’t remember how the tradition began.
I had a vague idea but being that this was pre-Google / Wikipedia, I had to actually research why those of us in the Commonwealth don a poppy for November 11. So, for those like me thatmay have forgotten, here is a quick history lesson. The poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields. I remember
having to learn this poem very early in elementary school and even though I have not recited it for many
years, I can still recite much of it: “In Flanders Fields, where poppies blow, between the crosses row on row…” Poppies were first used by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers who died in the
Great War.

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. Scarece heard amid the the guns below.

This was surprising to me as I had no idea that the Americans started it. The tradition was then adopted by military veterans’ groups in some Commonwealth states: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Today, they are mainly used in the UK and Canada to commemorate their servicemen and women that have been killed since 1914. The Royal Canadian Legion trademarked the poppy we wear today and it is suggested that it be worn on the left, near the heart. In the US, November 11 is known as Veterans Day
which recognizes current and past military living veterans and they use Memorial Day in May as their day of
remembrance for those lost in war. So, although I am supposed to be writing in the health section, I thought it more appropriate for people to know the significance of Remembrance Day and the poppy.

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