November 11, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall
Last week, as I was driving home from work, I reached over with my right hand to scratch an itch on my left shoulder. As I pulled my hand back, I unintentionally raked it across the point of a pin sticking through my jacket.
The pin is the one holding my poppy in place.
Yep, that pin, the one that frustrates us all every year. Always either sliding loose and falling off or stabbing you when you least expect it.
On this particular occasion I received a slight gash on the back of my thumb, causing a stinging pain and more blood than I really wanted to have to deal with while driving a car.
If it had been any other pin serving any other purpose I would have ranted and screamed about how it hurt like hell and I hate that pin and why does this happen to me and oh my god I’m suffering so much because of it and also me me me me me.
But it’s not some other pin. It’s the pin holding a poppy, the symbol of remembrance of sacrifices made by people who suffered through so much more than my little scratch.
There are those who would suggest that I use a flag pin with a clasp on the back to hold the poppy in place. I’m not going to do that, and here’s why. The Royal Canadian Legion publishes the Poppy Manual, a guide for all aspects of the Remembrance Day Poppy Campaign. On page 38 it states: There have been many queries related to the wearing of the lapel Poppy, specifically as it relates to using a pin or other such fastening device in the center of the Poppy. It is the position of the Legion that the Poppy is the sacred symbol of Remembrance and should not be defaced in any way. No other pin, therefore, should be used to attach it to clothing. While this should be the practice of all Legionnaires, it is recognized that the Legion cannot control its form of wear by the public. It is undoubtedly better to wear a Poppy with a pin in the center than not to wear a Poppy at all. The best that we can do is to encourage Legionnaires to wear it properly.
I’ve never served in the Armed Forces nor am I a member of the Legion so, strictly speaking, these guidelines are not mandatory for me. But it’s specifically for that reason that I won’t replace the pin with an easier method. The poppy is worn out of respect, not convenience.
I have several friends and a few relatives who have served in the military. I am proud of them all. They inspire me and they demonstrate a determination and strength of character that is truly admirable. It’s a strength of character that I know I simply don’t have.
I’ve dealt with danger before, both on the job and off. I’ve been in situations where I was uncertain of my immediate safety but I persevered anyway. I can even say that on a few occasions I have saved lives. Like most people, I like to think that I would not hesitate to protect my family, my friends, that I would step up and do what needed to be done to help them, even if it meant risking myself. I can easily convince myself that I have what it takes to do that.
But I still don’t have enough of it to have joined the military when I could have. There is a special extra something that compels someone to commit to that level of dedication, to make those sacrifices to help and protect total strangers, to serve on behalf of people you’ve never met.
So many of the people we remember today weren’t given the option. They were drafted, armed, shipped out, and sent to fight a war they didn’t start. Out necessity they found (or developed) what was needed to do what they had to, to protect and defend. And far too many of them died.
I choose to wear the poppy according to the poppy protocols (yes, they’re actually called that) simply because choosing is an option I have, and I have that option because of the sacrifices made by those who served in the past and serve today. On a day of remembrance, how you feel about war doesn’t matter. Personally, I’m against it. I don’t like it, I don’t want it, and I wish for none.
It would be a challenge to find anyone who has served in the military who is actually in favour of war. They don’t want it any more than you do. Why would they? But they are still willing to step up and defend your right to speak out against it.
Everyone I know who has served dreams of a day when the primary purpose of the military will be to support relief efforts and help with rebuilding after natural disasters. Because that’s why they signed up. To help people.
Try to be nice to each other.