Have you heard about the poppy display at the Tower of London? I recently had the privilege of being in London and was able to view this amazing display of remembrance. The display includes 888,246 ceramic poppies – one for each British and Commonwealth military personnel killed during World War One. This memorial will progressively fill the Tower’s famous moat, until the final poppy will be placed in the moat on November 11th at the 11th hour. Each evening at dusk up to November 10th the last post is played and the names of military personnel from World War One are read aloud by Tower employees. The display also serves a practical purpose as a fund-raising campaign. The money raised from the sale of the poppies is donated to veteran charities within the United Kingdom.
Canada, like the United Kingdom, also uses poppies to honour our military. Canadians wear poppies in remembrance of the sacrifices made during world conflicts and peace keeping missions by Canadian soldiers. You will see poppy boxes in stores and malls from October 31 – November 11 each year. The funds raised by donating your change for a poppy help the Royal Canadian Legion fund a variety of programming. The Royal Canadian Legion helps veterans in need financially, emotionally, and physically.
This poem illustrates the sentiment behind why Canadians wear poppies.
“Please wear a poppy,” the lady said,
And held one forth, but I shook my head.
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;
But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on care-free feet.
His smile was full of joy and fun,
“Lady,” said he, “may I have one?”
When she’d pinned it on, he turned to say;
“Why do we wear a poppy today?”
The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered; “This is Remembrance Day.
And the poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war.
And because they did, you and I are free –
That’s why we wear a poppy, you see.
I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.
He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird, he would race about.
As the years went by, he learned and grew,
And became a man – as you will, too.
He was fine and strong, with a boyish smile,
But he’d seemed with us such a little while
When war broke out and he went away.
I still remember his face that day.
When he smiled at me and said, ‘Goodbye,
I’ll be back soon, Mum, please don’t cry.’
But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.
His letters told of the awful fight
(I can see it still in my dreams at night),
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.
Till at last, at last, the war was won –
And that’s why we wear a poppy, son.”
The small boy turned as if to go,
Then said, “Thanks, lady, I’m glad to know.
That sure did sound like an awful fight
But your son – did he come back all right?”
A tear rolled down each faded cheek;
She shook her head, but didn’t speak
I slunk away in a sort of shame,
And if you were me, you’d have done the same:
For our thanks, in giving, if oft delayed,
Though our freedom was bought – and thousands paid!
And so, when we see a poppy worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country’s call
That we at home in peace might live.
Then wear a poppy! Remember – and Give!
– Don Crawford