Remembrance Poppy-On Veterans Day, 11/11/2018, 100 Years Since End of WWI
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
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November 11, 2018, is a very special day, for it marks the 100th years since the end of WWI. So, allow me to share some history of Veterans Day (also known as Armistice Day) and a very special symbol, the Remembrance Poppy with you. Some excerpts from wikipedia, in italics, below.
Veterans Day (originally known as Armistice Day) is an official United States public holiday observed annually on November 11, honoring military veterans, that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other holidays including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day which are celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. At the urging of major U.S. veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.
Veterans Day is distinct from Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in May. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who died while in military service. There is another military holiday, Armed Forces Day, a minor U.S. remembrance that also occurs in May, which honors those currently serving in the U.S. military.
On November 11, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued a message to his countrymen on the first Armistice Day, in which he expressed what he felt the day meant to Americans:
ADDRESS TO FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN
The White House, November 11, 1919.
A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.
With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.
Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.
To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.
The United States Congress adopted a resolution on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations calling for the observance of November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. A Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made November 11 in each year a legal holiday: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
U.S. Representative Ed Rees from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through Congress. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954. It had been eight and a half years since Weeks held his first Armistice Day celebration for all veterans.
The National Veterans Award was also created in 1954. Congressman Rees of Kansas received the first National Veterans Award in Birmingham, Alabama, for his support offering legislation to make Veterans Day a federal holiday.
Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October (October 25, 1971; October 23, 1972; October 22, 1973; October 28, 1974; October 27, 1975; October 25, 1976, and October 24, 1977). In 1978, it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11. While the legal holiday remains on November 11, if that date happens to be on a Saturday or Sunday, then organizations that formally observe the holiday will normally be closed on the adjacent Friday or Monday, respectively.
As for the red flower on the poster of many of the “WWI-100 Years” poster, I’ve also been seeing them being worn on the lapels of many of the BBC journalists. Did you know that these are the Remembrance Poppies to commemorate military personnel who have died in war? Excerpt from wikipedia, in italics, below:
The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower that has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war, and represents a common or field poppy, Papaver rhoeas. Inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields“, and promoted by Moina Michael, they were first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers killed in that war. They were then adopted by military veterans‘ groups in parts of the British Empire.
Today, they are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to commemorate their servicemen and women killed in all conflicts. There, small artificial poppies are often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day/Armistice Day, and poppy wreaths are often laid at war memorials. In Australia and New Zealand, they are also worn on Anzac Day.
The Royal British Legion‘s Poppy Appeal has caused some controversy, with some—including British Army veterans—arguing that it has become excessive, is being used to marshal support behind British military campaigns, and that public figures are pressured to wear poppies.
The remembrance poppy was inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields“. Its opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders, a region of Belgium. It is written from the point of view of the dead soldiers and, in the last verse, they call on the living to continue the conflict. The poem was written by Canadian physician, John McCrae, on May 3, 1915, after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier, the day before. The poem was first published on December 8, 1915, in the London-based magazine Punch.
In 1918, Moina Michael, who had taken leave from her professorship at the University of Georgia to be a volunteer worker for the American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries organization, was inspired by the poem and published a poem of her own called “We Shall Keep the Faith“. In tribute to McCrae’s poem, she vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who fought and helped in the war. At a November 1918 YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ conference, she appeared with a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed 25 more to those attending. She then campaigned to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance. At a conference in 1920, the National American Legion adopted it as their official symbol of remembrance. At this conference, Frenchwoman Anna E. Guérin was inspired to introduce the artificial poppies commonly used today. In 1921 she sent her poppy sellers to London, where the symbol was adopted by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion. It was also adopted by veterans’ groups in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. James Fox notes that all of the countries who adopted the remembrance poppy were the “victors” of World War I.
Today, remembrance poppies are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—countries which were formerly part of the British Empire—to commemorate their servicemen and women killed in all conflicts. They are used to a lesser extent in the United States.
Protests and controversy
In 1993, The Royal British Legion complained that Cannon Fodder, a video game with an anti-war message, had planned to use a poppy on its cover. The Legion, along with some politicians, called it “offensive to millions” and “monstrous”. The publisher was forced to change the cover before the game was released.
In 2010 a group of British Army veterans issued an open letter complaining that the Poppy Appeal had become excessive and garish, that it was being used to marshal support behind British military campaigns, and that people were being pressured into wearing poppies. In 2014, the group protested by holding an alternative remembrance service: they walked to The Cenotaph under the banner “Never Again” with a wreath of white poppies to acknowledge civilians killed in war. Their tops bore the message “War is Organised Murder”, a quote from Harry Patch, the last survivor of World War I.
A 2010 Remembrance Day ceremony in London was disrupted by members of the radical Islamist Muslims Against Crusades group, who were protesting against British Army actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. They burnt large poppies and chanted “British soldiers burn in hell” during the two-minute silence. Two of the men were arrested and charged for threatening behavior. One was convicted and fined £50. The same group planned to hold another protest in 2011, but was banned by the Home Secretary the day before the planned protest. In 2014, a campaign was begun to encourage Muslim women to wear poppy hijabs. Some criticised it as a “shrouded loyalty test” which implied that Muslims needed to prove their loyalty to Britain.
In November 2011 people were arrested in Northern Ireland after a picture of two youths burning a poppy was posted on Facebook. The picture was reported to police by a member of the RBL. The following year, a young Canterbury man was arrested for allegedly posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook, on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act.
British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected a request from Chinese officials to remove his poppy during his visit to Beijing on Remembrance Day 2010. The poppy was deemed offensive because it was mistakenly assumed to be connected with the Anglo-Chinese Opium Wars of the 19th century, after which the Qing Dynasty was forced to tolerate the British opium trade in China and to cede Hong Kong to the UK.
In 2012 there was controversy when The Northern Whig public house in Belfast refused entry to a man wearing a remembrance poppy. Although the owners apologised, the customer took the matter to court, supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI). The case was significant for the decision supporting the view of the ECNI that “The poppy, although not directly linked to a specific religious belief or political opinion, would historically have been associated to a greater extent with the Protestant or unionist community in Northern Ireland”.
In the media
In the British media, public figures have been attacked for not wearing poppies. British journalist and newsreader Charlene White has faced racist and sexist abuse for not wearing a poppy on-screen. She explained “I prefer to be neutral and impartial on screen so that one of those charities doesn’t feel less favored than another”. Newsreader Jon Snow does not wear a poppy on-screen for similar reasons. He too was criticized and he condemned what he saw as “poppy fascism”. Well-known war-time journalist Robert Fisk published in November 2011 a personal account about the shifting nature of wearing a poppy, titled “Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?”. While all newsreaders in the UK are expected to wear the remembrance poppy, those on the BBC’s international news service are told not to. The BBC say this is because the symbol is not widely recognized overseas. The Royal British Legion condemned this, insisting that the poppy is the “international symbol of remembrance”.
Despite all controversies associated with the wearing of the Remembrance Poppy, I hope the take-away is that we do remember and appreciate those who have given their lives or time for the sake of preserving freedom for all of us. How and whether or not one wears the Remembrance Poppy should be a matter of personal preference or choice (this may be a reflection of my American upbringing). After all, Americans have so many different ways in expressing their/our appreciation for Veterans and Veterans Day (see video “Honk for Veterans on Veterans Day” below):
Finally, let’s be tolerant toward those with different view points from ourselves….for if we are more tolerant toward others, so that others may be able to be more tolerant toward us. Perhaps, just perhaps, we will then all be able to live more peacefully and harmoniously with one another.
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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