A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

11 November 2006

Today is Remembrance Day

Unusually, I didn't go down to the ceremonies this year. Normally they're held at the cenotaph. This year they were at the convention centre, and the granite monument with its bronze plaques stood alone in the wind. I don't know why. I think the charitable assumption is that it's so the veterans can sit comfortably and it's out of the chill.

This week saw a bit of a kerfuffle regarding the sale by a peace group of white poppies. These poppies divert money from the Legion, where the funds are badly needed to help in their continuing and again-expanding mission to help care for the Canadian veterans of war. Embarrassingly, the Canadian Legion has had to action this on the basis that poppies are a trademark.

Those selling the white poppies claim that their poppies are dedicated to the idea of "never again", and that they celebrate peace, while the red poppies are dedicated to glorifying war.

It has clearly been a long time since the last serious war, if people can so much forget why poppies are the symbol. Red poppies, specifically. The poppies which grew from the mud of Flanders, fertilized with the blood of thousands. And which grow today, in another place where blood is being spilt.

This is why we celebrate--not in the sense of jubilation, but as a solemn mass is celebrated--and this is why the poppy, the red poppy is the emblem we wear. To remember the dead, and to think about why they died and about what is worth dying for.

Today I wanted to offer my public thanks to my dad's cousin Clifford, who was torpedoed twice during his Merchant Marine service. Canadian Merchant Marine sailors had to fight for decades to have their service recognized. He was from England, so I don't know what his experience was.

I only remember a round little man with coke-bottle glasses, who greeted me from a bed in which, to the best of my knowledge and with very rare exceptions, he spent every day of the last thirty years of his life, his health ruined.

I'm thinking of my own cousin, who could be in the air above Iraq as I write this. And of course I have to think of the people below.

Of my best buddy Seagull, who sometimes can't talk to me much about his time in Bosnia, Haiti and the Gulf. Of John, my ex-roomie, who just returned from the 'Stan safely.

And my buddy Rob, who had nightmares:
"I tell you man. Sometimes I still wake up with the smell of burned flesh in my nose."

And then he told me about the day he surved a mortar attack on an elementary school, and afterwards had to stuff kids two to a body bag, because they were short on bags.

And I think: That's why we do this.

To all those wearing a uniform tonight, keep safe.


At 3:33 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't help but be grateful that I didn't actually get to serve in Bosnia. I did put my name in at the time and was looking forward to the opportunity. After some long and disturbing talks with a couple of my cousins and Bill Debruin (remember him?)I'm glad I didn't go.
I never new my Grandad as he passed away just after I was born. He was wounded in WWII and later died of complications. I'm told that we are very much alike.
So, here's to my Grandad, my parents, my uncles, my cousins, and all my friends who have served our country.
Those people who think the poppies glorify war do not understand that it is a symbol to remind us of the TRUE cost of war and the value of peace.


At 9:32 a.m., Blogger Metro said...

I'd forgotten they sent Bill over. No wonder it's been relatively peaceful there--they're afraid Canada'll send him back again!


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