Sunday, 11 November 2007

No Poppies in America on Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in the UK. In the USA it is called Veterans Day or Armistice Day. It is a state holiday and so my kids will be off school tomorrow (Monday), but I will be at work since Duke has an odd attitude to state holidays and regards them as dispensable (with the sole exception of Martin Luther King day in January). But here is something we wouldn't have known if we hadn't come to live in America, that people don't wear poppies on 11 November, or the week leading up to it, as they do in England. I really miss it. To explain just how widespread this is in the UK, you will see people selling poppies at school, in the streets, in petrol stations, the corner shop and everywhere. The idea is that the wearing of a poppy signifies a shared, public act of remembrance. Because we watch a lot of British television, it has felt strange this last week seeing people wearing poppies on the news, the weather, in parliament and so on, where outside our front door men's jacket lapels look rather naked and sorry for themselves. As far as I can tell, there is no alternative badge of remembrance in the USA. In our church this morning, the man doing the children's talk gave out little US flags to the kids to wear. I couldn't help thinking that as a badge of remembrance, that does not work as well as the poppy, not least given that we were sitting there as British expats, wishing to join in the public act of remembrance for all those who have died in the world wars, and subsequent wars and conflicts.

Let me conclude, though, with a comment on our service at church this morning. The veterans present in the church were asked to come forward and the children gave them certificates of some kind. As the veterans returned to their seats, the congregation all rose, apparently spontaneously, and applauded them loudly. This kind of public act of gratitude and respect for the veterans I found profoundly moving, and it has made this "veterans day" quite special and meaningful for me. And in their honour, this blog is wearing its poppy with pride.

26 comments:

imagegag said...

I am a little embarrassed that I have never even heard of a poppy.

I am really uplifted at hearing what your congregation did for our veterans.

I know some Vietnam Veterans who probably would have broken into tears by that.

God Bless you. Happy Veteran's Day everyone.

Anonymous said...

Q, a veteran of only 100 days of active service facing the enemy, but of 20 years of following the flag as one of the soldiers of the Queen, joined Her Majesty at the Cenotaph in Whitehall yesterday. He was on parade, along with 27 other soldiers from his unit, representing the reserve forces in front of goodness knows how many Old Comrades marching past, as well as very large crowds, one lunatic and a huge worldwide television audience.

Although the parade was long and arduous (who enjoys standing stock still for over two hours in a heavy greatcoat, holding a rifle?), it was very moving and a real privilege to be there. If you have not stood in front of the massed bands of the Household Division (Guards) then you just have not... The blasts of the brass and the beat of the drums actually compress your chest, and the pipes of the Brigade of Gurkhas playing Flower of the Forest make the hairs on your neck stand up in a way that can hardly be credited.

I am sorry the Americans don't recognise the poppy, but they do in Canada. After all, the writer of "In Flanders Fields", John McCrae, was Canadian.

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.

Anonymous said...

Actually... we do have poppies, but they appear in late May, for Memorial Day. They're called "Buddy Poppies" and sold by veterans. They're not as widely worn but they're there. And technically, we have two holidays for veterans -- one in May, commemorating "the ultimate sacrifice," and one in November to commemorate all of them, poppies or not.

EV said...

Disabled veterans selling artificial red poppies was a common sight in my childhood upbringing in El Paso, Texas, a city with a large military base. I've never seen this in Los Angeles.

Gene Brooks said...

Thanks for your blog and your down-to-earth self. I've heard your name over at Southeastern a few times, usually with a good tone!

Gene Brooks said...
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Gene Brooks said...

Oh, BTW, our church had a time of honoring veterans, and in the spirit of the WWII blue star flags that hung in people's windows for their loved ones on the lines, we commissioned a flag with eight stars of active duty personnel connected with our church, Amis Chapel Baptist Church (http://amischapel.com) in northern Granville County.

I don't know if it is still done, but in my hometown of Clinton, SC, you got assaulted every May by police officers, old ladies, veterans, and cashiers selling $1 poppies to wear. You had to buy one to stop the attack. Once you had one on, no one bothered you anymore but judged you a responsible citizen.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you, I am a student who moved here to america two years ago. I too watch British television (the little that comes on) and it makes me feel nostalgic and a little upset to see a red poppy pinned to everyone's chest. I remember selling poppies back when I was in school in England, and our two mins silence at 11 every year! Last year I tried to look for a poppy and nobody here had even heard of it so I asked my sister to send me one from London! The thing that annoys me a little is that when I try to explain rememberance day to my american friends, they don't really listen to what I explain about the poppies and their history and resemblance, but instead they cut me off and go on about their opinions on american wars and politics today. Though it is good they have an interest, it saddens me that a lot of youth have forgotten about wars that to them have happened long ago, yet whose survivors are still with us today. If only they would celebrate and remember the bravery of all those who took part in such wars rather than condemn them for fighting in the first place.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for your interesting comments. I will put a poppy up on my blog over the coming days so that at least in a virtual sense, I'll be wearing one. I suppose that those with twitter accounts / facebook pages could do the same.

Anonymous said...

Kim says
In Canada we wear poppies probably from late October till Remembrance Day (Nov 11th). At 11 am we have a minute of silence and everyone stops what they are doing in memory of the people who have given their lives.

Peter said...

It frustrates me too, that Americans do not wear poppies in November. Around Veteran's (Remembrance) Day. Some choose to wear a yellow ribbon or a small American Flag, but it is usually worn all the time. I find the poppy is much more special because it is worn, or is supposed to be worn, with thought of the holiday in mind. Furthermore certain symbols tend to be associated by the right-wing and therefore many do not think of them as Remembrances, but political statements. As someone on the left who finds it important to honour the services of my Father and Grandfathers the poppy is the ideal way to do so while also reaffirming my links to Canada and the United Kingdom.
The one on my jacket this week I purchased in the Spring from an old man at near my subway station four years ago. One of the Veterans' Groups here sells them, but for Memorial day. I always keep an eye out around this time for them, but as we lose more and more older Veterans they are becoming harder to find.
This will be the last year I can wear this one, but I think that I will keep it as I am afraid that it may be the last time I could buy from a Second World War veteran in this country.

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for those most interesting and helpful comments, Peter.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know americans didn't wear poppies, I was born in england and moved to canada when I was 10 and in both countries poppies are a huge deal, the only difference was that the english ones had a green plastic stem, and a leaf I think, but here they're just attached to a pin, but still I thought it was a universal thing. America is so weird.

Dawn said...
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Dawn said...

I was shocked to see that Americans don't wear poppies. In Canada we start wearing them right after Halloween and don't remove them until November 12th. I like our tradition. I feel it is a sign of respect for the soldiers who fought for our country.

Anonymous said...

According to the Royal British Legion Web Site. In 1920 the Poppy was proclaimed as the United States’ national emblem of Remembrance. But I too as a Brit. living in Arizona have not seen them.

jnorris7777 said...

I am watching Nevermind the Buzzcocks on YouTube and noticed the panel wearing poppies and all I could think was, this is so sad that I don't see people wearing poppies in this country any longer. They were passed out regularly when I was a kid. I'm going to find a VFW this Veteran's Day and sport one. Thanks for the blog.

Anonymous said...

If I could find a place to buy poppies in the States I would. This is my family's service history - My grandfather lost his oldest, and only, brother in WWI. My mother lost her oldest brother, 3 months before WWII ended, he was 19. My Father served and survived the Korean War. My brother-in-law served and survived the Vietnam War. My son served in and survived the Iraq war.
Many have given up their tommorows so we can enjoy ours.

Anonymous said...

I'm from the UK and I'm quite shocked that some Americans haven't even heard of poppies. However, the important point to make is not the need to wear poppies, it's the symbolism that it represents. It represents support for our armed forces who risk their lives to protect us and our interests, and it represents the remembrance of all those who have fallen bravely for their cause. While Americans might not wear poppies, so long as they have the respect for those who fight and die for our safety, then that is all that matters. Find a charity that supports veterans or families of those who have lost loved ones. That's what the most important thing is.

Anonymous said...

I have been searching for Remembrance Day poppies in America for the last couple years, so far without success. Does anyone know where I might be able to acquire one this year?

Thanks,
Michael

Joan Raymond said...

I live in California (born in the states), but have a friend in Canada, that sent me poppies last year. I wear a poppy proudly, and have yet to see any others worn here. Is there a reason that people in the states don't wear them, and what would it take to get a tradition started in the states again?

Joan Raymond said...

@Michael,
e-mail me, and I can send you one. My friend sent me 6, so I have a few extras.

Anonymous said...

it may be too late to get things over to the US for this Remembrance Day, but you can buy all things Poppy and support the appeal here: www.poppyshop.org.uk/

Anonymous said...

In Canada we also wears the poppy over our hearts as the poem from which the tradition started, was written by a Canadian Medical Officer by the name of 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.
John McCrae 1915

Bob said...

When I was growing up in Chicago in the 50's, all of the kids wore poppies on Veteran's Day. They were provided by one of the veteran's organizations, but I don't remember which one.

Anonymous said...

Bob in Chicago (28 May 2012 18:58)

I started Kindergarten at Coonville, in Michigan in 1946, where I first was introduced to the Poppy. This was still wartime and in my earliest childhood memory are the Bombers from Willow Run being flown past our house on their way to ...? being outfitted with armament I always supposed.

After a relocation in 1956, I noticed they (the Poppies) were no longer "handed out" in the schools but were available ...for a donation, on the streets, sidewalks and at retail establishments - usually to support a VFW Post or a similar organization. Gradually they became more difficult to find for whatever reason; possibly they seemed to some to be a commercial venture, taking advantage of our involvement in one world crisis after another. When I reflect over all those years, it IS difficult to remember more than two or three years in a row when our troops were NOT involved someplace on the earth... no telling where ...and no telling when.

I can't explain what happened to the practice (of wearing the Poppy) but I DO agree that it engenders warm memories and is a beautiful custom that is a convenient way to silently express, "Thanks For Your Service" to all Veterans... a kind of Thanks that seems to be woefully absent among politicians, once the theatre of operations moves to another conflict ...once war becomes so common it is taken for granted.

I join you when watching TV, and seeing the characters adorned with Poppies, in remembering a time past when simple things like wearing a Poppy were important; when it was expected that we would remember and care for our veterans past and present.