poppiesThey shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them. (We will remember them.)

Laurence Binyon (1914)

The white poppy v. red poppy debate came up again this year. I’m disappointed. Again, I argue that while the white poppy may be intended to promote peace, the red poppy does not promote nor glorify war. I don’t believe that anyone wearing a red poppy does so in support of war.

This day makes me remember my Dad’s dad who served in Europe in World War Two, and had he been born a few years earlier, could have served in the First World War. It makes me remember my Mom’s dad who served in Europe in the Second World War. It makes me remember my Mom’s mom who worked in a munitions factory during World War Two. It makes me remember my Dad’s mom who was a nurse during the Second World War, and became a nurse partly because the hospitals actually had food regularly. And it makes me think of my Dad and my uncle who wouldn’t have been born if my grandparents hadn’t met in the Netherlands and my Nana hadn’t chosen to immigrate to Canada. This story is repeated with my stepmom’s parents.

It makes me remember a story my Nana told me about riding her bicycle from one town to another, stopping at her house along the way and finding it occupied with a German patrol. On that same trip, or perhaps another, she’d been asked to bring a loaf of bread to a friend’s family. They were surprised and thankful that she actually brought it to them and didn’t eat it herself, or possibly sell it along the way.

And it makes me think of Chris, Gwen, Victoria and Mackenzie Bourque. They probably don’t remember me, but I remember Chris and Gwen from the short time I served with the North Saskatchewan Regiment in the Armed Forces reserve, 20 years ago. Chris lost his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder last year; he’d served in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

It’s not just soldiers and veterans that I’m remembering here, it’s families that exist because of war, and torn apart by it. It’s people who worked to support war efforts and became who they were because of it. And at no time, especially when I’m wearing a red poppy, do I believe that war is glorious or should be promoted or celebrated.