November 11th is Armistice Day, or Veteran’s Day, or so it is called in the United States. For most of my life growing up, Armistice Day was pretty much a “non-holiday”, (except for Federal employees), and a day where there were a few ceremonies to remember the veterans of past wars. The News channels would give a 30 second sound bite of the President laying a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier. I have been touched this year with the way in which the Scots have remembered veterans.
In the United Kingdom, Armistice Day is called “Remembrance Day”, or “Red Poppy Day”. As you will remember, the Armistice to end the first World War was signed at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
For a fortnight leading up to November 11th many people in Scotland, and around the UK have been wearing a red poppy as a symbol of their “remembrance” of the wars past and the many men and women who have given their lives to allow us to have the freedoms we enjoy. Little red paper or plastic poppies can be purchased on the street or in many of the market entrances and the cost is a “donation”. The money goes to the Royal British Legion charity. Last year’s Poppy Appeal raised $56 million for the Royal British Legion’s charity work which supports veterans and their families.
There are many poems about Remembrance Day and the poppy. The red is a symbol of the blood that has been shed in war. The black is a symbol of grief for those who have died.
Today (Sunday) was “Remembrance Sunday”. At eleven a.m. we stood in Church and observed two minutes of silence in remembrance of those who gave their lives during the First and Second World War and the many wars that have followed. The remembrance was to recognize the sacrifice made to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. This was a fitting gesture on a Sunday as it followed the passing of the Sacrament emblems where we had given our “remembrance” of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice for us…a sacrifice that will allow us to return to God’s presence if we keep His commandments.
It is obvious that this “Remembrance Day” is taken more seriously by the Scottish, and the people in the UK, than by most Americans. I think this could be because the first and second world war was much more real to them. They not only lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the wars like we did in America, but they also suffered much damage through the bombing raids here in Scotland and in England. As Americans, many have drifted to take for granted the sacrifices made for our liberty and the freedoms we enjoy.
This event today has also had an impact on me this year since by coincidence I have been reading in the Book of Mormon about Captain Moroni and Helaman and his 2000 stripling warriors going into battle against the Lamanites and how they raised the Standard of Liberty as a symbol of their fight to protect “…their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.” Today has made me very grateful for the country in which we live and the freedoms we enjoy, for the ability to enjoy my family and have the ability to worship freely.
I have learned a wee bit about why the poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day. The poppy’s origins as a remembrance symbol lie in Canadian soldier John McCrae’s 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields.” He was serving as a Major and a military doctor and was second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. It is believed that the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, was the inspiration for the poem. One account says that he was seen writing the poem sitting on the rear step of an ambulance while looking at Helmer's grave and the vivid red poppies that were springing up amongst the graves in the burial ground.
Tomorrow is Remembrance Day...November 11th. May we all remember!!