Friday, November 11, 2011

The Poppy

Since I married Mr. Man and came to live in the United States almost 8 years ago, I’ve learned a lot about the differences between the country I now call home, and the country I will always consider my home. Despite basically being siblings of the same continent, there are cultural differences between the U.S. and Canada.

Besides hockey vs football, prime minister vs president and poutine vs chili fries, that is.

One, difference I was pleasantly surprised to discover was how celebratory Americans are of their Military members. Having grown up in a family deeply steeped in Military tradition, it’s always saddened me that more of my countrymen don’t recognize their service members. It has gotten better in the last few years, but sadly it took a war and fallen young soldiers to get the country’s attention.

It’s taken 8 years, but after checking with Mr. Man, I think I’ve finally straightened out the purpose of each of the Military-centric holidays around here….

First, they have Memorial Day, a federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated among communities after the Civil War to commemorate the fallen soldiers. Southern ladies and schoolchildren would decorate the graves of the fallen. By the 20th Century it was changed to Memorial Day and was extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

To my Canadian friends think May 2-4… only without the 2-4…

Next there’s Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July. Thanks to the Will Smith movie of the same name, you’d have to live under a rock not to know about this holiday. It marks the day America finally declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain after a long fought struggle.

Canada Day or July 1st also recognizes independence from Britain. Only instead of fighting tooth and nail to claim independence Canada just waited about 90 years, and then asked nicely.

I think that’s originally where the idea of Canadian politeness comes from…

Finally there’s Veterans Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, and known to me as Remembrance Day.

Which is today.

Today I think about my family and the contribution they have made to their Country.

Grandfathers, Grandmother, Mother, Father, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins… they all served, or are serving in the military.

I live a long ways from my family, and seriously miss them every day, but especially today.

Most of all, I miss wearing my Poppy.

The United States, does not wear poppies for Nov. 11th. In Canada, we start wearing them right after Halloween.

For my non-Canadian friends here’s the story…

In the spring of 1915 there was a horrific battle in a place called Ypres. There were more than 100,000 Allied casualties and over 6000 Canadians died there in less than 48 hours. As a lasting legacy of the terrible battle Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem called "In Flanders Fields”.

This poem is memorized by every Canadian child, and recited at every Remembrance Day observance across the nation.

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 power and beauty is undeniable.

It brings a tear to the eye and goose bumps to the skin.

Canadians wear a poppy to remember the sacrifice of young men who fought and are still fighting.

Today I will keep in my mind the sacrifices the members of the armed forces make in all countries.

I may not have a poppy to put on my lapel, but I will still remember.

11 o’clock, on the 11th day, of the 11th month.

Lest we forget,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We will remember them

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