Legion man stood tall on the corner
He was such a tall man, standing there on the corner of Main and Fairford Streets, stalwart against the bone-chilling wind and the falling snow.
The man, in a Legion uniform not quite hidden by a winter overcoat, had a dish of red poppies around his neck and he greeted everyone who passed by his spot.
I’m not sure if I had a quarter or a dime clutched in my hand, but I know I had a coin that I was going to give the man so I could receive a poppy. The Legion man smiled as I approached and bent down so I could put my coin in the slot and then pick out my poppy. My Mom helped me put it on my coat as my Dad talked to the Legion man, got two more poppies, and then gave him a salute as one veteran to another. It was Poppy Day in Moose Jaw and while I might not have fully understood the significance of the Legion man on the corner or why we would wear poppies until after Nov. 11, it was taught in our family that we always wore poppies and when possible came into Moose Jaw to attend Remembrance Day services.
In our rural school the teacher made a special effort to observe Nov. 11 and to make sure the school was decorated with poppies and crosses. As a class from Grade 1-6 we would listen to a radio broadcast supplied by the Department of Education that talked about Canada’s role in the World Wars and then we would sing along with some of the songs made famous by Vera Lynn.
But it wasn’t until that same teacher invited some veterans from the community to lay wreaths at our makeshift cenotaph that I started to realize the importance of the day. My Dad and two other veterans attended and showed their medals, taught us when and how to salute, how to stand at attention, and then recite In Flanders Fields together.
Those childhood moments have taught the importance of wearing a poppy, supporting the poppy fund and remembering the sacrifices that were made in the name of peace.
There will always be those who consider Nov. 11 nothing but a day off work, a day to sleep in. They suggest Nov. 11 is a glorification of war — no, it is an acknowledgement that peace came from the wars, that society today enjoys freedoms that would not exist if our soldiers hadn’t fought for those rights and privileges. Schools in Moose Jaw and area are to be commended for holding in-school services, teaching at an early age the respect due to veterans of world wars, peacekeeping missions, and extending to the men and women who now serve in the Canadian military.
It is an emotional time as one observes the Legion’s Nov. 11 ceremony, watching elderly veterans proudly wearing their medals, but aging each year. Those who have gone on before still have a special place in our hearts and when we say “we will remember them,” we will indeed remember my Dad, uncle, cousin and long-time family friends who proudly served. The Legion man doesn’t seem quite as tall this year but he symbolizes the strength and courage of the Legion man who sold me my poppy on that windy street corner so many years ago.
Thank you for your service.