Poppy Days

Poppies at the tomb of the unknown soldier.


When I was in university, I went through an ambivalent phase when it came to wearing the poppy and Remembrance Day. It wasn't that I didn't honour the service of veterans so much as I wondered how much good came of the campaign as a fund-raiser. Were we financing more monuments to the glory of war?

Seaman Nelson Bruce, 1940
A veteran and member of the Royal Canadian Legion set me straight. Though monuments are raised "To our glorious dead", no veteran, whether they saw combat or not, believes that war is glorious. The poppy may symbolize the dead, but the poppy campaign is to serve the living.

The money raised by selling poppies helps the Legion help veterans in need.  Many years later, the Legion purchased a lift chair for my father after a major stroke. That chair helped him stay home for a few more years and was a great asset when it went with him to the nursing home. For my father and other veterans, the Legion fills the gap between what is needed and what veterans' benefits and health care provides.

My father has passed on and his chair is helping another veteran somewhere, but I am still a benefactor in the Legion's work.

Poppy money also aids the Navy League, Sea, Air and Army Cadets. These programs keep participating youth active and engaged, as well as encouraging good citizenship, teaching Canadian history, and practical skills -- not unlike Guides and Scouts which I grew up with, but more financially accessible.

Cadet Sam Bruce-Ireland, 2012
Membership,  programming -- which includes camping, sailing and band -- and kit (2 uniforms, gym gear, coat, boots and even socks) are supplied free of charge, thanks in part to contributions made possible by the poppy campaign. The way my son grows, I wouldn't be able to afford to keep him outfitted otherwise.

My father served in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II. My aunt was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. My mother was in the Observer Corps. My grandfather was in the Royal Air Force. Kids I knew when I managed a comic book store served in Afghanistan.

So, I wear the poppy to remember. But I stick extra change in the boxes because I know it's going to a good cause.