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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Poppies and Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Hello Papamoka Bloggers - I don't know about you guys, but I have been curious lately about those little red paper flowers EVERYBODY seems to wear on their lapels in the UK.

At first I thought they might represent the Labor Party rose, albeit a pretty bad representation. I was wrong. I discovered they represent poppy flowers that commemorate the fallen from the Great War, or World War One for those living after the second great war.

The icon has a fascinating history. It turns out we used to wear them on this side of the pond during the early part of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, their popularity, along with our memories of that war, has faded.

Along with the Cross of Malta, the Buddy Poppy is still a symbol of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. So, take some time to appreciate that little paper flower the next time you see it on somebody's lapel. It represents a great deal of history, and honor, on both sides of the Atlantic.

I don't mean to geek out on you more, but it is interesting to find such powerful symbolism in the world. The UK is still full-throated in the way it honors Remembrance Sunday - the second Sunday of November, or the Sunday nearest to November 11th (Remembrance Day). The UK still goes all out in its attempt to honor its fallen, something I think is worth mentioning considering the amount of time.

Of course, it turns out that tomorrow happens to be the day. Incredibly, the Great War ended at 11 a.m. on November 11th in 1918. For almost a century now, it continues to be marked overseas by ceremonies at local war memorials in most towns and villages. Millions of people will join in. Wreaths of poppies are still laid on the memorials and, most impressive, two-minutes of silence is still held at 11 a.m. across the UK - led by the Queen.

The poppy became popular as a symbol because Great War veterans believe the flower evokes the memories and emotions of the time. It became associated with the war after the publication of a poem written by Col. John McCrae of Canada.

The poem, In Flander's Field, describes blowing red fields among the battleground of the fallen. I found the poem quite beautiful after reading it. I hope you like it too. I think we should honor the men and women who died in that Great War by remembering here.

In Flander's Field
by John McCrae
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.

Btw, that honor extends to my grandfather, William Raymond Gordon. He was a veteran of that war. He went over to train with the French in 1917 and served in the 26th Infantry Division, or the Yankee Division - so named because they were derived from National Guard units throughout New England.

He was a machine gunner fighting with the 26th at Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Chateau Thierry, and Soisson. He was wounded by mustard gas before leaving Europe at the end of the war.

So, this is for you "Pa." I'm sorry some of us forgot that symbol of your sacrifice. You and your men deserve better. I guess this will have to be my way of trying to remember, and honor, you. I hope you and your fellow soldiers found peace.

Michael Boh
Papamoka's Left Coast Contributor
from Our Rants & Raves Blog
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Blogger Papamoka said...

Thank you for putting this post up Michael! Growing up I spent many an hour at the local VFW posts with my dad and of course many a day being told never to forget our veterans from any war. I remember the first time he told me the story about the wire poppie flowers handed to him with every donation he made, that he twirled together and made a chain with that he would hang from the living room mirror.

Small world that your family served in the Yankee Division, so did many in mine. Matter of fact one of them named his Liquor store after his service in WWI and prohibition ended "YD Liquors". It's still in business today but no longer in the family.

My personal thanks to all that have served in defense of this great nation. God bless them all!

4:19 PM  

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