November 11, 2018
The ravages of war scarred both the soul and the countryside. Impacted by the loss of life, in a moment of serenity, John looked out across Flanders Fields. It was the site of the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium where his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by artillery fire. As he took a moment to remember his friend and fellow soldiers buried throughout the battlefield, he couldn’t help but notice the sea of red flowers. What he did next became a tribute that has lasted 100 years.
When Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae participated in the country's first major World War I battle in April of 1915, the war had already been underway for eight months. As a doctor, he witnessed the horrors and lasting devastation of war up close. Despite the death and destruction, along with the killing of Lt. Helmer, McCrae found hope and inspiration to honor his 6,000 wounded and fallen countrymen in the little red flower covering the makeshift cemetery.
Undisturbed, poppy seeds can remain dormant for upwards of 80 years. However, once the ground is agitated, such as with wartime activities, they start blooming. Because of this, even before “The Great War”, the red poppy symbolized death, renewal, and life. Fields all over the battle zones in Europe were laid waste by shells, gunfire, trenches, and graves. But this havoc led to red poppies blanketing the land.
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