This year a pacifist group in Ottawa rolled out the idea that the red poppy — you know, the one we wear to remember all the sacrifices made by our soldiers to protect our freedom — is a warmongering badge of evil and should be cast aside in favour of a white poppy.
It is easy to forget in these relatively peaceful times the reasons why we wear the poppy, and oddly enough for that we should be thankful. Thankful that we have a generation so insulated from the horrors of war that they think we should do away with the poppy pin of remembrance in favour of a white pin of peace. But there are many reasons we wear the red pin, and maybe some folks need a reminder.
The red poppy is a symbol of peace just as much as any other, and the reason we wear it is to remember the horrors of war and the selfless sacrifices made by those who have protected our nation, our safety, and our freedom so that no one will ever have to endure them again.
Here are five of the many, many reasons to wear a red poppy this Remembrance Day.
1. Wear the poppy for the Battle of Vimy Ridge
On April 9, 1917, an Easter Monday, 100,000 Canadian troops fighting within the British forces stormed a ridged area outside of the town of Vimy, France in a horrible snowstorm. Of those 100,000 Canadians 3,598 were killed and 7,004 were wounded. These were soldiers who, for the first time, were fighting for more than the British Crown — they were fighting for Canada. The spirit of our nation was created in the trenches of Vimy Ridge as our soldiers fought and died to protect Canada, and for that we should remember them by wearing a poppy.
2. Wear the poppy for the Second Battle of Ypres
This battle, waged in Belgium, was fought by Canadians within British forces alongside the French and Belgians. The battle marked the first time poison gas was used in the large scale on the western front of the war. The results were catastrophic. 70,000 men were wounded, dead, or missing after the use of chlorine gas, a chemical agent dispersed through the air that suffocated the soldiers (many of whom were conscripts) and ate away at the tissue in the lungs and eyes of soldiers until they either stumbled out into the battlefield to be shot or chocked to death on their own blood. All in the name of freedom. Wear a red poppy to remember them.
3. Wear a the poppy for Flanders Fields
Regardless of how many times you had to read the poem in elementary school take a moment to pause and think about it. At an American military cemetery John McCrae passed through the day after he his friend died in the Second Battle of Ypres. McCrae described the battle as a “nightmare” where for two straight weeks on one side was the never ending gunfire and the other side the piles of dead soldiers. McRae performed the burial of his friend and the next day while sitting in the back of an ambulance he wrote the iconic poem which describes the horrors of war juxtaposed with the gift of peace that the fallen give to the living. By wearing the red poppy you are remembering the sacrifices made by all those who were laid to rest in Flanders Fileds and swearing that these deaths were not in vain. Wear the red poppy to remember them and everything they did so that you may live in peace.
4. Wear a red poppy for the Holocaust
To argue against red poppy is not only an insult to all of those who died fighting for the freedom of Canadians and others around the world, it is an insult to those who died and survived the Holocaust. Millions of people were being helplessly exterminated before the Allied forces liberated them. These are people who were murdered while our soldiers fought to free them, Take a look at the numbers.
6 million Jews were murdered.
12.5 million Slavs were murdered.
15,000 gays were murdered.
2 million Poles were murdered.
1.5 million Romani were murdered.
250,000 million disabled people were murdered.
Countless thousands of others were murdered.
When you wear the red poppy you are remembering the brave fight our soldiers made to free those they could save and remembering those they could not.
5. Wear a red poppy to help Canadian veterans today
The poppies worn on lapels were first crafted by disabled veterans, who gave so much for us and our country, so that they could earn a small amount of money to support themselves and their families. The poppy campaign is not run by the Royal Canadian Legion to benefit veterans, many of whom need the income and support. The least you can do is respect the sacrifices they made for us here today by donating the change in your pocket for a red poppy.