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The poppy symbolizes SACRIFICE, not war

Barrie Advance

6 November 2017

Regarding those who advocate for wearing the “White Poppy” because they feel the red poppy symbolizes war:  The red poppy symbolizes the SACRIFICE of soldiers who died in conflict and became popularized as a result of the poem, “In Flanders Fields”, written in 1915 by Canadian physician and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, MD.

McCrae was inspired to write the poem after seeing the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers while officiating at the burial service of a close friend, who died during the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium. How do the graves of dead soldiers glorify war?

Sacrifice has always been a big part of military service, especially during wartime.

Veterans are some of the biggest advocates for peace as many have seen the horrific reality of conflict.  Even if we are to be a “Peacekeeper Nation” as many naively think we should be to the detriment of an effective fighting force, peace can only truly be maintained by a military willing to fight and possibly die to maintain that peace.

Very few people today realize just how close the Allies came to loosing WWII.  It would be a very different world if the Nazis won the war.  This irony is obviously lost on these arrogant and entitled narcissists.

Bruce Forsyth, CD, Leading Seaman (Ret’d)
Royal Canadian Navy Reserve

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Original article written November 2013:

Regarding the Ottawa students who say they don’t care if the “White Poppy” offends vets:  the poppy symbolizes SACRIFICE, not war.  The red poppy came to symbolize soldiers who died in conflict as a result of the poem, “In Flanders Fields”, written in 1915 by Canadian physician and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, MD.  McCrae was inspired to write the poem after seeing the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers while officiating at the burial service of a close friend, who died during the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium.  How do the graves of dead soldiers glorify war?

Veterans are some of the biggest advocates for peace as many have seen the horrific reality of conflict.  Very few people today realize just how close the Allies came to loosing WWII.  It would be a very different world if the Nazis won the war.  This irony is obviously lost on these arrogant and entitled narcissists.

Bruce Forsyth, CD, Leading Seaman (Ret’d)
Royal Canadian Navy Reserve

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About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-poppy-symbolizes-sacrifice-not-war/

6 comments

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  1. MCJ

    Both my father and mother served in the service and a part thereof. I spent my my formative years being raised on Air Force bases across Canada. I’ve been a part of services and ceremonies in those years as much or more that those who have served, including the most horrific, those who have lost their lives in death, and those to whom still live.

    As a child of soldiers of war/peace – whatever the capacity – leaves an indelible mark, not unlike those who served. A bold statement? VERY! But tell me war does not change the people who participate and those who support us (Our family and our prideful nation) – On the side of righteousness and the others’ side of righteousness (their family and their prideful nation).

    Now, please do not get me wrong. I am not trying to state that the choice of my Dad and my Mum was wrong. By no means am I saying that! They were/are my heroes. I may not have known it back then, but I certainly know it now. It may not have been my path (because, at that time in history, I was given another choice, But only because of the time(s) we grew up in. Am I eternally grateful? Yes. Do I respect those who had the guts to follow the call of, not just the brave, but also the not-so-brave-but-did-it-anyway? You so know it!

    Hear me out, please. I need something new. I cannot look at a red poppy and not see death and destruction. I can see, with the idea of a white poppy, having a new life presented to people. White. A symbol of peace? Not unusual throughout the millennia, but a new idea for a new century and for a new enlightenment. If not for the world, then maybe for Canada. Old ways brings old pain, old wounds, old anger, and old ideas of how to deal with the PAST! You disagree? Really? How do you sleep, then, because ignoring the old ways ignores the pain we recognize now that begins with the devastation of one generation, lasts for many afterward.

    I am a child of proud veterans. I am not ashamed to wear a white poppy. I will never forget the after effects of what my parent inherited after WWII – it shaped my parents, and ultimately, it shaped my personality.

    Do I need more war? No. Would I want my family to see it? No. Do I need to change things? Yes!

    Then let me understand that, for all the men, women and children who have died in the name of war, I can remember them with the colour of life (white), rather than the colour of death (red).

    Is that no okay?

    PS – I hope I have a chance to edit something that sounds stupid… in diction, not in ethos.

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Thank you for stopping by my web site and for your comments. I understand your point, but I disagree that a red poppy symbolizes death anymore than a red rose. It is just a colour after all, one that just happens to be the same colour as blood. If the poppies that Lieutenant Colonel McCrae saw growing over the graves of the fallen soldiers were green, we would no doubt be wearing green poppies today.

      1. MCJ

        No matter what the colour McCrae saw growing over the graves of the fallen soldiers, it still remains the same sad and tired truth of war, of which we have learned NOTHING! And that truth is needless death and destruction.

        Generations continue to learn nothing from the past, and yet we continue to “honour” that same past, like it was something to be emulated. Once a person chose to pick up and weapon and fight, they were no longer victims, they were participants and therefore share in the responsibility for the death and destruction they caused, not only to themselves, but to those whom they killed.

        It has been 100 years since that poem was written, along with the words “Lest We Forget.” Well, we have forgotten, or have chosen to ignore those words, irrespective of all the pomp and circumstance countries go through every year. And every year, those numbers that come out to remember dwindle, because nothing has changed and no one remembers. War is still around us and even more evil than what it was in WWI.

        When the world chooses to change it’s attitude about war, then the words of Lieutenant Colonel McCrae’s poem may actually mean something along with the phrase “Lest We Forget.” Until such time, however, they will always remain hollow to the generations that no longer have any memory and no longer care.

        And as long as the military ranks keep dwindling – and they will – these words will be lost to history just as many of the great writers of times past have fallen by the wayside.

        So, continue your ceremonial rituals, but I think I will start looking at war for what it really is and look for new ways to come to peace, rather than looking back and seeing nothing change at all.

        1. Bruce Forsyth

          When you say, “Once a person chose to pick up and weapon and fight, they were no longer victims…..”, do you mean that it was wrong to fight against Nazi tyranny? Where I live, annual ceremonies such as Remembrance Day, Battle of the Atlantic Day, Peacekeepers’ Day and the Battle of Britain Day continue to be well attended by members of the general public who obviously disagree with you. I strongly stand by my statement that “Veterans are some of the biggest advocates for peace as many have seen the horrific reality of conflict”. I too hope that Canada never has to fight another war. That said, even when world peace had finally been achieved, I will continue to honour those who made the supreme sacrifice in past wars. They all did what they thought was right and to not honour them is the equivalent of spitting on their graves.

          1. MCJ

            Do not put words in my mouth that I did not say. . Never did I say that it was wrong to take up arms. I am saying that once an individual decides to participate in war by taking up arms, that individual can no longer be considered a “victim.” They are full participants in that war. If one is a participant, they can no longer be considered a victim. A victim is an innocent. Participants of war can no longer be considered innocent.

            So veterans, which are former participants of war, may indeed be the biggest advocates for peace (only after the fact), but they still have to accept responsibility for their part. The individuals that signed up and went to war were paid for their service. It was a job (you can put it any way you want to; use any excuse you want to; believe that it is an honourable job to have, but it is still a job none-the-less).

            I believe you have the right to “honour” anyone you want for whatever reason, but in the case of choosing a military career, just do not call them victims if they happen to get shot or lose their lives.

            And please note that a child will not understand why they are doing what they are doing at these ceremonies. Eventually they will, but by that time, they will have been indoctrinated by the “machine” and will automatically continue to do the same thing as they get older. Most people do not want to be considered contrary to popular belief systems and will therefore continue to do what they were ultimately indoctrinated to do.

            Leave these children alone and you will no longer have the throngs you say are still showing up.

  2. MCJ

    Father: RCAF – Comox, BC: St. Hubert, Que: Marville, FRA; Chatham, NB: Cold Lake, AB; North Bay, Ont; Namao, AB. That’s all I can remember…

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