11 November 2015

Today we remember to remember

It's the 11th day of the 11th month and fast approaching the 11th hour, 
the moment of silence...
the ceremonies....
lest we forget.  
At the time of this writing Eastern Canada has witnessed the 21 gun salute in ceremonies to commemorate those who gave their lives to protect us, to ensure our freedom. Here's a link to one broadcast of such an event:  glbn.ca/UwqtX.

The poem In Flanders' Fields was written in a moment of anguish and frustration by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD. He had just performed the burial service, in the chaplain's absence, for a young friend and student who had been killed by a shell burst in March 1915. As he sat there in the back of the ambulance the next day after the service, looking out at the scene of poppies growing amongst the headstones, he vented his anger and frustration in this poem. Today it is one of the most well-known poems written during war time, a legacy of the battle of Ypres salient, spring 1915. 

November 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada (Veteran's Day in the USA).  The day we commemorate in solemn remembrance  those soldiers who fought for this country, who died for our freedom, and we express gratitude to those who continue to do so.  

The poppy - a symbol of remembrance day.
Poppy seeds can lay dormant for years at a time, only to begin to grow once the soil is disturbed.  In cemeteries, amidst the graves, the freshly dug soil yielded the beautiful simple and vibrant red poppy (papaver rheas - red field or corn poppy).  Thanks to John McCrae's poem, it became a symbol for soldiers who lost their lives.  

In 1918, working in a canteen of the New York City YMCA, Moira Michael came across the poem of Major John McCrae and it touched her insomuch that she began to wear a poppy in remembrance of the thousands of soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  She vowed to continue to do so as a sign of remembrance.  Moira wrote a poem titled "We Shall Keep the Faith."

Three men attending the conference where Moira was attending the desk saw the flowers she had brought in at her own expense to brighten the place and gave her $10 in appreciation of her efforts which she then used to buy 25 silk poppies, one of which she kept for her lapel.  She distributed the other 24 to delegates from the conference who expressed an interest.  This was the original impetus behind  her letter campaign to have the poppy adopted as the country of US' symbol of remembrance of the deceased soldiers.

In 1920 the American Legion adopted the poppy as an emblem of remembrance for the nation. Two years later Madame Guerin learned of the custom while visiting the United States and took the custom back to France using handmade poppies to raise money for poor children in war torn areas of the country. Distribution of poppies in Canada began a year later.

Lest we forget....

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