Like most people, I suspect, around this time of year, I encourage people to donate to the Legion’s Campaign and wear a poppy. On Sunday, I had a really emotional moment that brought home the importance of doing so. I didn’t want to lose the moment so I wrote a post to my Facebook account recounting the story. As I wrote it, it turned into more than a quick Facebook post; it was more of a formal blog post. I had the account written but decided to post it here, with a little more detail than the original.
Those that know me well know that I can be kind of emotional at times. There’s the setup to what happened to me this past Sunday.
Like most people, as a student, we all wore poppies in the days leading up to Remembrance Day. In school, we read and interpreted “In Flanders Fields“
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.
Thanks, Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Flanders_Fields
As a Wolf Cub and then Boy Scout, I learned more about the significance of the poppy. I have memories of marching in uniform to the cenotaph and the program that we followed that day. There were a few older attendees in their full uniform.
As teacher, it was something that we wore daily to model wearing it in the days up to Remembrance Day. My school, like yours, always had a Remembrance Day event – sometimes an assembly, other times just done over the public address system.
These days, I make a conscious effort to continue to wear one.
A colleague that I used to work with does regular trips to Europe and shares the images of his trip to Somme in honour of a family member and shares his photos. Much is now agricultural but he does share pictures from the cemetery. I find it emotional to me because it’s so important to him.
Wearing a poppy has always been important to me.
They’re available starting the last Friday in October.
We bought our poppies on Friday and I was off to Leamington for the last day of harness racing Sunday afternoon.
I moved my poppy from the lighter jacket to my heavier one and was off. I didn’t think much about it; I’ve worn a poppy for years so it came naturally. During the drive, I looked down and realized that it wasn’t put on correctly. So, I did take it off and placed it so that it was over my heart as it should be.
There is indeed a protocol for when and how to wear a poppy properly.
When I got to Leamington, I was just standing there, minding my own business, reading the program, when this Veteran came up to me … I knew he was a Veteran because there was a special Veteran’s Day a couple of weeks ago and he had worn his uniform and marched with others.
“Excuse me, I just want to thank you for wearing your poppy”
I hadn’t noticed but I looked around and, at that point, only the Veteran and I were wearing poppies. I smiled at him.
“It means so much to me because I served Canada …” I wish I could remember the end of that sentence but emotions were kicking in. I nodded and managed to get a grip on myself and when he stopped, I knew that I had to say something so
“Thank you for your service”.
I wish that I could have something more personal or original but that’s what came out of my mouth. It felt lame even though that’s the exact message I was trying to say.
I had these thoughts flowing through my mind – the images from Normandy, the poem, the lessons in school, the learnings from Scouts, and the modern-day situation in Ukraine.
I don’t know if it was me or if it would have happened anyway, but he started to tell me pieces of stories from his service and now he was getting emotional as well.
Then, he told me of his son who is still in the service and has been for something like 25 years. I was really having problems now.
We had a good 15 minutes with his relating his stories and me doing my best to listen. I think we all know that some of the experiences that our Veterans had have stuck with them for life. It seemed that the least I could do was listen to him.
He did thank me for listening which led me to believe that he was very cognizant that I was listening and hopefully showing some empathy. I know that I was trying to do both.
On the drive home, the interaction kept replaying in my mind. Yes, over the years, I’ve done the right thing. Learning of Canada’s participation in wars, wearing poppies, observing the moment of silence, reading the poem, … As a Scout, we did visit some Veterans in retirement situations but they knew we were coming and we knew that we were going. It was a planned event.
This was a completely random encounter this afternoon. That would explain my reaction.
The big takeaway for me was something that I probably should know and be aware of. Veterans do pay attention to who is wearing a poppy and remembering. It’s such a small gesture and yet it certainly seemed to have made a difference to this gentleman. The moment reaffirmed to me the importance of wearing that poppy. It was no longer something that I was doing for myself.
If you haven’t got your poppy this year yet, please take some time to get one and wear it properly and with pride.
You never know who is looking.