I don't know if you come across the mostly older gentleman who appear outside supermarkets and shops in the week or two leading up to Memorial Day; accepting donations for the veterans and handing out little paper poppies . The poppies are on a wire and were meant to be wrapped around a button or stuck in a buttonhole on your shirt, back in the day when everyone wasn't wearing a t-shirt. Have you ever wondered where this tradition of handing out poppies came from?
It came from the haunting poem In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McRae, MD, of the Canadian Army. Written after the terrible World War I battle of Ypres, McRae reflected on the brutality of the war and the death of many of the injured soldiers he had treated. It has become one of the most poignant reflections on the casualties of armed conflict.
In Flanders Fields
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.
Jack Fowler at National Review writes of a renewed effort to bring back the wearing of the poppy by an investment banker named Jason DeSena Trenert:
May they rest in peace. And may all of those who have come back with limbs missing, with bones broken, with nerves shattered, find consolation in the Lord. And may we never forget their sacrifice.
Last year, I resolved myself to bring the poppy back to my little corner of the world. We’re buying 1,000 to give to friends and clients and colleagues. Please let us know if you’d like us to send you one. They’re only 16 cents a-piece so we’ll consider it an honor if we need to buy more. I’m going to encourage all of my colleagues here at Strategas to wear them on the Friday before and the Tuesday after Memorial Day.