Remember verb ri-ˈmem-bər
1. To retain in the memory; keep in mind; remain aware of.
2. To recall to the mind by an act or effort of memory; think of again.
Today is the last Friday in October, which means that it’s the start of Poppy Campaign by the local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion. I have worn the same poppy for the past three years but I always make a donation into the box whenever I see a volunteer giving out poppies. It’s a common misconception that poppies are for sale. Poppies are not for sale, rather they are freely given away. You can choose to make a donation but it is not mandatory. According to the website of the Royal Canadian Legion, “During the Poppy Campaign some 18 million poppies and 70,000 wreaths, crosses and sprays are distributed across Canada and overseas annually”. 18 million poppies. The number is staggering. When you make a donation to the Legion through the annual Poppy Campaign, the money is used to help veterans and the families of veterans. The main purpose of the Poppy Campaign, though, isn’t to raise money but to remind Canadians of the sacrifices made by over 117,000 Canadians who died in service to their country.
With the Canadian involvement in Afghanistan in recent years, Canadians have begun to think more about military service and what it entails. Canada is very fortunate. 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812, the last war fought on Canadian soil. As a nation, we do not know first hand the horrors of war. Our military, however, is full of brave men and women willing to forgo the safety and comfort of their home and native land and serve in countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kosovo, Cyprus, Sudan, and Libya as well as protecting Canadians here at home. All veterans, regardless of whether they were involved in military action overseas or remained in Canada are eligible for membership in the Royal Canadian Legion. Regardless of military service, all Canadians are eligible to become members of their local legion branch. Like donating to the Poppy Campaign, Legion Membership is another way to help support the terrific programs and services that the Legion provides.
Back to the poppy though. One of the most common misconceptions about the poppy is that it is somehow promoting war or militarism when in fact the opposite is true. The poppy is an international symbol of remembrance, our promise to those who died so that we could be free that we will not forget their sacrifice. Rather than promoting militarism, the poppy is our unspoken vow to the fallen that their death shall not have been in vain; our promise that we will strive to keep the peace that they fought so valiantly for. Wearing a poppy over the left lapel of your coat or on the left side of your shirt (close to your heart) is a way every Canadian can say thank you to the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
This year, Remembrance Day is on a Sunday. I truly hope that everyone who is able comes out to a cenotaph near them to pay respect to our veterans. Every year the number of World War II and Korean War veterans diminishes. We owe it to all of our veterans to have a strong turnout at cenotaphs across the country this year. It is likely that this is the last weekend Remembrance day with many of our WWII vets. Having been fortunate enough to spend time with veterans at my local Legion branch for the past few years, I can assure you that the veterans appreciate it when people take time out of their busy lives to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony. If you cannot attend, please observe two minutes of silence at 11 am on November 11th.
I close now with the words of the poet Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) in his poem “For the Fallen”, that are spoken at Remembrance Day and memorial services around the world:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
How will you remember?