Thunder Bay’s annual poppy campaign is scheduled to begin on Friday.
On Thursday Mayor Keith Hobbs helped a group of veterans raise an awareness flag at city hall to promote the two week sale of poppies, which helps finance veterans in financial distress, purchase medical equipment, home service and care facilities.
Jim Ash, the president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 6, said the poppy campaign is the foundation of their remembrance program.
“If they forget about (war) it could happen again,” Ash said. “If we remember what happened, maybe we can prevent war.”
Poppies first came to represent fallen soldiers in Napoleonic France, where they bloomed over their graves.
Then, in 1915 Canadian John McCrae penned his famous poem, In Flanders Fields, which, two days before the armistice was signed in 1918 inspired American Moina Michael to don a poppy year round in remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war.
A year later the poppy campaign began in Britain and quickly spread to Canada where it has become an annual tradition ever since.
Ash said Thunder Bay is much like the rest of the country when it comes to supporting the campaign.
“Canadians are very generous when they see our volunteers on the street and the collection trays in the stores,” he said.
“As a result of their generosity we are able to ensure that the veterans and their dependents are cared for and treated with the respect they deserve.”
Tradition dictates the poppy is only to be worn during the two-week period leading up to Remembrance Day, though the public is encouraged to wear them at other commemorative events throughout the year. They are also appropriately worn at veteran funerals and members of colour parties while on parade.
Hobbs, whose parents both served in the Second World War, said it’s important never to forget.
“If it wasn’t for the veterans and the people who gave their lives for our freedom, we wouldn’t even be able to raise that flag today. We’d be under a different regime and not a very nice one,” Hobbs said.
“My parents are both veterans. My dad served in Africa and Italy. My mom was with MI5 British intelligence and I heard a lot of stories growing up about the horrors of war. We owe it to the men and women of this country and the world that fight for our freedom and are still fighting for our freedom.”
Poppies can be purchased at the Branch No. 5 and the Polish Legion in Thunder Bay, as well as at retail outlets throughout the city.
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