The poppy is not just a drug or a nod towards The Wizard of Oz--Poppies, poppies, poppies. The red poppy of Europe, in particular, holds special significance. Flanders Field was decimated by the war effort of World War I, but a year after the war ended, the poppies had returned, covering the damage done by what was then the greatest war the world had ever seen.
It’s for that reason that the poppy has become a symbol of remembrance for the War. Both the American Legion and the British Royal Legion sell and distribute poppies to remember soldiers who have fallen in conflict.
While the U.S. usually does such remembrance on Memorial Day in May, Europe celebrates Armistice Day, November 11th, and I think it’s appropriate that people do more than vaguely celebrate the return of solderis from the front lines, but remember, specifically, the conflict from which they returned.
American history courses and textbooks frequently overlook the importance of World War I in favor of World War II and Vietnam. But I think that World War I deserves more remembrance. It was one of the most savage conflicts that ever existed as technology had outpaced strategy. No longer were formations of soldiers effective as machine guns could mow them down. Cavalry gave way to armored tanks. And we saw the debut of chemical warfare, submarines, and landmines. Trenches spread across Europe separated by tracts of land filled with the dead and strings of barbed wire to make sure they never escaped.
This was a war where progress was measured in yards of ground captured when it wasn’t in feet.I urge everyone not to forget, and perhaps to wear a poppy, and tell the story of what happened nearly a century ago.