November 11 is a somber day. As I watch the ceremonies on the morning news, the day begins to take shape as a humble one. It is so easy to take freedom and security for granted.
Why do we wear poppies? The Reverend Ed Hird of St. Simon's Anglican Church in North Vancouver, British Columbia explains:
"During World War One, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, of Guelph Ontario, heroically served as brigade-surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Forces Artillery. With the introduction by the enemy of poison gas, John McCrae worked night and day for seventeen days straight, not even stopping to change his clothes. At times the dead and wounded actually rolled down the bank from above his Yser Canal dugout. McCrae wrote home 'We are weary in body and wearier in mind. The general impression in my mind is one of a nightmare'.
The day before John McCrae wrote 'In Flanders Fields', one of his closest friends was tragically killed and buried in a grave decorated with only a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies were already flourishing between the crosses that marked those silent graves. In Flanders Fields" was first published in December, 1915 in England's 'Punch' magazine. Within months, "In Flanders Fields" became the most popular poem about the First World War. Translated in several languages, it was used in a 1917 Canadian campaign to help with the war effort, an effort which remarkably raised over 400 million dollars.
Three years later a New York City YMCA worker, Moina Michael decided to begin wearing a poppy in memory of the millions who died on the battlefield. Thanks to a 1920 visit to New York, Madame Guerin of France learned of the New York City poppy. The poppy symbol so inspired her that upon returning to France, she made handmade poppies to raise money for French children made destitute by World War 1. From there, the poppies spread like wildfire around the world."
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.
Please wear your poppy today.