Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Poppy - Day 19

Today I’m thankful for the poppy. It’s hard to put into words what a poppy means to me. In school it was just something you did, something you got at the beginning of November, but war and rememberance was more a concept than a reality. It wasn’t until I got married and Brian was continuously out of town that I got a glimps of what wives during the wars were going through. Except my husband was just away on business, not off fighting a war. I could talk to B all the time, they were lucky to get a letter every few months. 

Brian’s grandfather served in the Second World War. He was a medical doctor on a Navy ship that crossed from Canada to Europe numerous times. He left his sweetheart at home and served his country for 4 years. I never had the honour of meeting Dr Ernst, but I’m proud to be an Ernst and know that my family served our country.

I asked a few people I know what it means to them to wear a poppy in November.

My co-worker Anna grew up in a military town and her family is in the military. Here’s what she said about her poppy:

I wear a poppy in great pride to honour those brave men and women who have served and currently serve our country at home and abroad from the early 1900’s to today. Many made the ultimate sacrifice because they believed freedom was worth dying for. I wear a poppy out of remembrance and appreciation for those men and women; men and women who include my sister, my brother in law, many many friends from my hometown, and my dear friend Sean Greenfield who passed away in Afghanistan in February of 2009 from and IED.

I wear my poppy to thank all our Veterans for the sacrifices they have made so that we can have the freedoms we have today.

I asked my dad why he wears a poppy.

I guess my first memories of poppies are from school ceremonies on Remembrance Day are repeating Col. McRae's poem "In Flanders Fields". It didn't really mean much until I was old enough to understand what war meant, and even then it was a pretty abstract concept. I recall reading a framed fancy certificate in the basement of the church we attended in a small farming community and realizing that it listed those who served during the two world wars, noting which had been killed and wounded. As I recall there were over 40 names on that list, in a community of perhaps 250 people. I knew some of the people who had served and been wounded, and the families of some of those that had died. That gave me a tangible connection to what it meant to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. Since that time I have met, worked with and spoken to veterans in many situations and the one thing they have in common is their silence when asked about their experiences. It has taken me a long time and some experience of my own to realize that they were reluctant to speak of their experience because it is beyond the listener’s ability to understand or truly appreciate what happened and how the events changed their lives. You could see it in their eyes as they remembered.

What does it mean to wear a poppy? It's a sign of respect and remembrance for those who have put their lives in danger to protect our ability to choose which path in life we would like to follow. We need to remember and honour those that did not come home, and all their families that are touched forever. We need to remember and understand that those that come home have paid a price for their courage that we may never understand. 

I’m thankful for the physical reminder we have each year of those who fought for our country. 

Today we are heading out for a mini-vacation. We’re taking Gray to Ottawa for his first Remembrance Day. We’re going to honour his namesake and start teaching him about our nation’s history. 

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