Each November, around this time, red poppies begin to blossom on the lapels and collars of Canadians from coast to coast. The poppy has stood as a symbol of remembrance since 1921. Wearing one is a visual commitment to never forget the Canadians who have fallen in war and military operations. Canadians are not alone in wearing poppies. Indeed, the red flower is “an international symbol of collective reminiscence,” with several other countries adopting the poppy in honour of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The poppy gained prominence following World War I, and in particular the the poem, In Flanders Field, penned by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in 1915. However, the connection between the poppy and remembering those killed in war goes back nearly 200 years to the Napoleanic Wars, when it was first noted how densely the flowers grew over the graves of fallen soliders
Today poppies and most closely associated with the Royal Canadian Legion. The Legion is responsible for holding an annual poppy campaign. From now until November 11th, poppies will be available at various locations around Metro Moncton. As in the past, the poppies are not being “sold” but presented to those who want to show their respect and admiration for Canadian veterans and making a donation. Money raised supports local veterans, students and youth organizations.
While the ranks of living veterans decreases each year, there has been a resurgence of interest in Remembrance Day and support for the poppy campaign in recent years. According to Al Johnstone, president of Moncton Branch 6, Royal Canadian Legion, money raised through Moncton’s poppy campaign has actually risen in recent years. Last year, $76,000 was raised.
Of these funds, $15,000 goes to 15 bursaries of $1,000 each for post-secondary students who are descendants of veterans. Youth also benefit through contributions toward other programs, such as cadets, a leadership camp and a track and field camp. For veterans, the funds are used to purchase items like TV sets for the veteran’s health centre, comfortable reclining chairs, and adjustable tables used by veterans in wheelchairs. In other words, items that make the life of veterans more enjoyable, but are not covered by government funding. Money is also used to help veterans on a slim pension who have trouble paying their monthly bills.
The annual Moncton Remembrance Day ceremony will be held Nov. 11 at the Moncton Coliseum, complete with marching bands and representation by police officers, firefighters, cadets, scouts and guides and various other community organizations.