In 1914, despite the destruction and devastation on the battlefields of Northern France and Flanders, the poppy flower emerged as the only living thing to grow and cover the land were fallen soldiers were now buried. A year later, Canadian Lt. Col., John McCrae, captured this site in his now famous poem, “In Flanders Field.”
One hundred years after McCrae wrote, “In Flanders Field” the poppy has become a Symbol of Remembrance to honour fallen soldiers in several countries across the world. Canadians proudly wear the poppy from the last Friday in Oct. to Nov. 11, Remembrance Day.
“It’s a symbol of personal reflection to wear the poppy in commemoration of 170,000 Canadians who sacrificed their lives for us to give us the freedoms we enjoy today,” said Bill Maxwell secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy and Remembrance Committee.
On Thursday, Oct. 28, in honour of the 2015 Poppy Campaign, a ceremony was held that presented the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada with a symbolic First Poppy at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. This symbolic act is then replicated at the provincial level; each Lt. Gov. is given a symbolic first poppy.
During the Poppy Campaign, thousands of Legion members across the country volunteer their time to distribute poppies. However, some branches across Canada are looking for volunteers to help with the campaign. Though the poppies are distributed freely, donations are appreciated to support programs for serving and retired veterans and their families.
The Poppy Fund donations provide grants for food, heating costs, clothing, prescription medications, medical needs and emergency shelter. A portion of the Poppy Fund also can be allocated for services for veterans and their families such meals-on-wheels, transportation and care facilities.
Some proceeds from the Poppy Fund could also be allocated to promote Remembrance ceremonies.
Last year, the Legion estimates more than 18 million Canadians wore a Poppy, allowing $16.5 million to be distributed to programs across the country.
“I think Canadians understand the significance of the poppy, and they appreciate the role the Legion plays in assisting veterans,” said Maxwell.
The Poppy Campaign’s roots can be traced back to a French woman named Madame Guerin. After learning of the custom of wearing a poppy for Remembrance, Guerin decided to sell handmade Poppies to raise money for children in war-torn areas. Following in her footsteps, the Poppy was adopted by the Great War Veterans Association in Canada, the predecessor of The Legion, in 1921.
This November, remember to donate to the Poppy Campaign and proudly wear a poppy on the left lapel of your clothing to honour the fallen heroes of Canada.
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.