The meaning of Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is a day to remember and thank the men and women who have served our country during times of war and peace. We have all learned about this in school and most people can probably recall John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields, which asks future generations not to forget the fallen soldiers from the First World War. In Canada and numerous other countries around the world, Remembrance Day has become a day to remember those who have been affected by war and to thank the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have fought for our freedom and the freedom of others through all conflicts.

Sadly there is opposition to the spirit of Remembrance Day, the ceremonies surrounding it, the red poppy and other forms of support. Numerous White Poppy organizations have introduced white poppies as a new symbol to replace the traditional red poppy because they support peace, not war. In the Ottawa Sun, Ian Harvey, a member of the Ottawa White Poppy Coalition, explained that the red poppy should not be worn because it and Remembrance Day “adopt the idea that war is a necessary evil.” Even the annual Poppy Fund bake sale hosted by the Undergraduate History Students’ Association (of which I was then president) faced many students who refused to buy our baked goods because they do not support war.

Wearing a poppy and buying a cookie does not show support for war, it demonstrates that you care about our veterans. Clearly there is a misunderstanding about Remembrance Day.

The red poppy became a symbol of Remembrance Day in 1921 because it grew on the graves of soldiers in France and Belgium, first noticed during the Napoleonic Wars. Wearing a poppy demonstrates support for our veterans, not support for war. The ceremonies do not celebrate wars that Canada has been a part of but show veterans and their families that we, as free Canadians, appreciate what they and their fallen comrades have done for Canada. We celebrate freedom of speech in Canada and no veteran or military organization would demand that Canadians support the wars we participated in, but I ask that you do not let your beliefs about war prevent you from supporting Canada’s veterans. Organizations like the Poppy Fund raise money for veterans, ex-military personnel and their dependents, they do not fund combat missions. It is about supporting the men and women who have risked their lives, the personnel who have supported them and their friends and families who waited for them at home.

If you want to make a stand against war, please do. You have the freedom to do so, and some people, myself included, would argue you have that right because of our veterans. But please do it at some other time, Remembrance Day is not about the wars of tomorrow. Wear a poppy over your heart and show your appreciation, support and respect to the veteran, cadet, or volunteer who sold it to you.

Lest we forget.

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