by Beth Lueders
At 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, many countries of the world honor their military members who died during war. The tradition started in 1919, one year after the official end of World War I also known as the Great War. On 11 November 1919, now called Remembrance Day, Britain’s King George V directed the public to pause for a two-minute observance of silence so “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead.”
Why the symbolism of wearing and displaying poppies on Remembrance Day? Poppies were the delicate yet resilient flowers that flourished on the World War I battlefields, particularly after the close of the hostilities. For many, the poppy’s bright red color is a reminder of the blood shed through the casualties of war. Some people have adopted white poppies to represent non-violence, but red poppies remain the predominant symbol of supporting those who’ve engaged in military combat.
John McCrae, a Canadian physician and army lieutenant-colonel, wrote a poem about fellow soldiers killed during the Great War. “In Flanders Fields,” McCrae penned:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In 1921, the British Royal Legion started selling silk poppies on Remembrance Day to raise money for veterans in need of care and support after fighting in wars. The contributions helped veterans earn jobs and find places to live. Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, New Zealand and the United States are among the Commonwealth of Nations and non-Commonwealth countries that continue to celebrate Remembrance Day. Some nations celebrate the day as Armistice Day and Veterans Day and the observance is also informally called Poppy Day. The United Kingdom commemorates Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday of every November.
Poppy production and sales on behalf of war veterans is still a rich tradition. In the week leading up to 11 November, people wear a single artificial poppy on their clothing or place poppy wreaths at cemeteries and war memorial sites in recognition of the brave military lives given in war.
Across the world, Right at Home elder care professionals serve the thousands of military veterans who have served our world. Thank you, brave servicemen and servicewomen! We salute you for your enduring sacrifice.
How do you help honor older military veterans on Remembrance Day?