The Resiliency of America and the Red Poppy

Memorial Day and the Resiliency of the Red Poppy

By Sylvia Luneau

As we approach Memorial Day this year, the country looks a little different. The majority of people are quarantining, while a few heroic, essential workers continue to work hard and put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. 

Acknowledging and appreciating their sacrifice seems very fitting as we lead up to Memorial Day, a day focused on honoring the brave men and women who lost their lives serving in the U.S. Military, fighting for our way of life. On Memorial Day, we remember the veterans that put America and the idea of freedom above themselves and gave everything for their country.

Traditionally, families and those honoring the dead, visit cemeteries and memorials out of respect for the fallen, to remember and to place flags on grave sites throughout the nation. American flags are flown at half-staff until noon, when they are raised to their height until the sun sets. 

Another major symbol of the fallen on this day, is the Red Poppy, a symbol so powerful, it is used in remembrance in many of the allied countries of World War I. The Red Poppy is technically a weed, but this bright red flower is extremely resilient and is known to bloom again and again in rocky and inhospitable places. It is no mystery, then, why it represents to the American, Canadian, and British Legions, the tenacity and resilience of those who lost their lives fighting for their countries. The Red Poppy became an emblem of bravery and life lost during World War I.  

Poetry often captures in just a few words the emotions that are sometimes hard to describe in any other way. Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a famous poem during World War I about the Red Poppy.  He was moved by the Red Poppies that bloomed across a ravaged European battlefield, where 87,000 Allied soldiers had been killed.

“In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

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.

On Memorial Day, you might usually gather with family and friends to celebrate the start of summer and the freedom that we can all be thankful for. The shelter in place decree that is currently covering most of the country means that these gatherings can’t happen this year, but don’t lose the reflection that this day brings. Life is a miracle and just like the poppies on Flanders Field, life pushes on. Through this time, remember those who have come before, who have served for all our safety. 

Memorial Day is an important reminder to be grateful for the lives we have and to remember that our liberty, our way of life, and our country only exist because of the brave men and women who gave their lives to defend them. On Memorial Day, and every day, we are so grateful for their sacrifice. Thank you to all of our veterans. We salute you!

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