By Liz Bevan
Lt. John McCrae saw poppies growing on soldiers’ graves in Flanders Fields a century ago and soon they will be seen on the jacket lapels of local residents in an annual sign of remembrance.
However, this year there is added meaning to wearing a bright red poppy on the heels of the tragic events in Ottawa and Montreal last week, where two Canadian soldiers, Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent, were killed in separate attacks.
“That is why we wear them, for those two guys,” said Neil Jarvie, vice president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 11 in Trail and Poppy Campaign chairman.
“You have people out there that think they are doing right by killing them and we disagree.”
Jarvie says the poppy tradition is alive and well in Greater Trail with nearly 20,000 poppies distributed every year.
He says seeing civilians wear the poppy shows appreciation for a sacrifice many of us cannot understand.
“The reason we wear those poppies is because of the men and women who gave their lives so we can live in freedom,” he said. “It is to show appreciation for what they sacrificed.”
The Legion will be distributing the traditional red felt poppies to businesses in Trail on Friday.
Veterans and members of the military were warned not to wear their uniforms in public in light of the incidents on Canadian soil last week, but like wearing the poppy, Jarvie says wearing the uniform is a way to show support and solidarity.
“The military wanted members and veterans to not wear their uniforms and they turned around and said ‘No,’” he said. “They were wearing their uniforms. They aren’t going to give in (to the attacks).”
Vern Schneider is a Legion member and veteran after spending nine years with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Armed Regiment as a peacekeeper with NATO in the Gaza Strip and Germany in the 1960s. He says seeing civilians wear poppies is a way for people to remember what happened in armed conflicts all over the world.
“I have learned that we have to try and remember the past while trying to fix the future,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to be going that way though. It is a heck of a world out there right now, but I have taken my kids to the Remembrance Day parades and things since they were young, trying to teach them to be appreciative. The poppies are a good way to remember the past. It means quite a bit to me (to see them).”
Poppies will be available as of Friday at stores and businesses all around Trail and Jarvie says that anyone can take one. For those that decide to drop a loonie or a toonie in the poppy box, the money raised goes towards supporting veterans in their everyday lives.
“All the money comes back to the Legion and goes into the veteran poppy campaign,” he said. “If a veteran comes to the Legion in need, we can help them out. We had one guy who needed new dentures, so we paid for those. We had another veteran who needed new glasses – things like that. Some of the veterans have no money.”
The Legion will be hosting Remembrance Day ceremonies next week around town at schools and retirement homes, bringing the event to those who cannot make it to the Nov. 11 ceremony.