I miss those poppies
*An update to this post: We are now living back home in Canada, and it is so wonderful to see poppies everywhere leading up to Remembrance Day.
Let me start by saying that as a Canadian living in the U.S., I am always amazed at how fiercely patriotic this country is, not just on Veteran’s Day (as it’s called here), but every day of the year.
That is a good thing, and something Canadians could use a little more of.
A few years ago when running a Veteran’s Day 10 K race in The Woodlands, I got choked up as I was running through a residential neighborhood where residents had placed little American flags at the end of their driveways and cheered on the runners.
The spectators were simply saying, “Thank you,” to the veterans who were also running that day, some of them with injuries and physical limitations. It was very moving. It made me ignore the soreness in my own legs and tightness in my chest.
But, there’s something missing here in the U.S. on Remembrance Day (as we call it in Canada) and it’s the poppy. That beautiful showy red flower that has been used to commemorate veterans killed in all conflicts since 1914. Using the poppy as a sign of remembrance was inspired by the poem In Flander’s Field, which is considered mandatory reading in all Canadian elementary schools.
We wear these small artificial poppies on our lapels leading up to and on November 11th. When working as a television reporter in Canada, it was very important that we wear these on air to show our respect. Everybody wore poppies, it’s just something I grew up with. It is just strange to me that I don’t see poppies anywhere here. I miss them, for some reason it just makes it that much more visible to everyone; especially kids. I had to remind one of my daughters that it was Remembrance Day today and I can’t help but think that if we’d all been wearing poppies for the last week, maybe it would have been a little more top of mind?
And what about those Veteran’s Day sales? That gives me an uncomfortable feeling. I’d like to know how veterans feel about these, but it seems like retail stores will use ANYTHING to promote their products. I just heard a TV add promoting special Veteran’s Day pricing on furniture. Hmmm…just feels weird to me. In Canada, there is a move underway to persuade retailers not to decorate for Christmas before Remembrance Day. Brett Wilson, an influential businessman, is urging retailers to wait…just wait, as a sign of respect.
Here’s what I do like. I like it when schools make a big deal out of Veteran’s Day and ask the students to think…really think about what it’s like to serve your country. My daughter’s 8th-grade class was asked to complete a history project which involved finding and interviewing a vet and making a colorful poster to honor that person. The display is up today at the school, and people have been stopping by this week to take it all in. It is breathtaking to see them all in a row like that. Wow.
My daughter heard from her vet about fighting in Vietnam, how he lost some of his friends on the battlefield and how many people returned home from the war and were never “right” again. Now, my daughter understands what PTSD is.
So, on this day, poppy or no poppy, let’s just remember. And say thank you.