2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the Poppy Campaign, and for Canadians, the solemn red and black flower has become inextricably linked to Remembrance Day and accompanying ceremonies.
The poppy is saddled with emotion and symbolism which is synonymous with Nov. 11. The continued access to poppies is achieved by volunteer efforts all over the country and although donations are gratefully accepted, the Legion makes poppies available free of charge to anyone who would like one.
Regardless of your stance on war, patriotism, or pacifism, it is important to acknowledge the humanity of those who have served and acknowledge the real-world consequences of war, however unimaginable for those of us who have been insulated from experiencing it at home. In other words, many Canadian’s contemporary conception of war is something that happens elsewhere, far away from Canada. For many people, this geographic distance allows us to remain detached from the reality of veterans experiences.
Supporting the annual Poppy Campaign is much more than just a symbolic gesture. Donations made to the poppy campaign provide support for veterans and help provide crucial resources and support to veterans and their families. Tom McElhinney, Poppy Committee chair for the Lethbridge Legion, detailed a number of these services in a recent newsletter that encourages people to consider a donation to fund much-needed supports for veterans. Poppy Campaign contributions support veterans dealing with challenges related to adjusting to norms different than those of the military and provide access to career supports. As well, mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, disabilities, and survivor’s guilt impede quality of life and contributions to the poppy fund helps fund access to therapy and supports for dealing with the psychological effects of trauma.
In the weeks leading up to Nov. 11, poppies become a hallmark of lapels and jackets. Remembrance Day signifies something different to everyone. For some, it conjures pride and is a time to reflect on many of the privileges many are afforded as Canadians. For others, Nov. 11 is a difficult reminder of unanswered questions, gaps in genealogy, absence, or mourning. The day can function as an opportunity for some to contemplate difficult themes relating to peace, death, and humanity.
Depending on who you are, and how your experiences or the experiences of your family have shaped your perspectives, Nov. 11 will mean something different to each of us. The multiplicity of meaning surrounding November 11 really demonstrates that “history” is not a monolith. As with anything, there is no one way singular way to engage in an act of remembrance. There is no universal timeframe for grief, and no comprehensive way to grasp all the nuances and implications of what veterans have sacrificed, or why. And while a solemn day, there really is no catch-all way to mindfully hold space on Nov. 11. However, what is collective is our acknowledgement, even if for just a moment. It might look like a simple act of remembrance in looking through old photographs, or an acknowledgement of peace, a longing for healing, or a donning of a poppy:
Consider using the hashtag #mypoppymemory and contribute a poppy story and share in a collective act of remembrance in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day. Be sure to scan the featured QR codes for more information and to donate directly to the poppy campaign.