It's Poppy Day today. Can you tell me what that means, what it represents? Today on Breakfast TV they showed a speeded-up film of a Veteran jangling his Poppy tin and being walked past by tons of people. Nobody stopped to buy a Poppy and chat to him.
They interviewed kids of my generation and some of them admitted they didn't know what the Poppies were sold for. One girl said "errrmmm it's for a charity isn't it but I dunno which one". Another young guy said "they could make them a bit more funky then maybe they'd sell more". IT ISN'T A FASHION ACCESSORY. Should it be turned into one, just to get people to buy one? Should it be the Wartime equivalent of a red AIDS ribbon? Or a pink breast cancer ribbon?
One older guy said that maybe the First and Second World Wars now seem so long ago tht we are numb of them, ignorant to what happened, blind to the suffering and sacrifice that happened all those decades ago.
But Poppy day isn't JUST for WW1 and 2 servicemen, it is for ALL servicemen, to help them and their families out. We are still fighting wars today and will shamefully continue to fight wars. I have ranted until I'm blue in the face about the fact that nobody is learning from the needless deaths of thousands of young men and women. Still we keep killing.
Maybe Poppy Day SHOULD be related more to todays wars and servicemen, but does that mean that WW1 and 2 will definitely be forgotten? WW1 was 91 years ago, very few veterans and people who lived through it are with us now. When they die, the stories die, and so too the remembering may die.
Should we see soldiers in modern uniforms jingling Poppy cans? It would definitely create more interest, which can only be good. Today's soldiers can help to educate our generation about ALL the wars, especially WW1 and 2 when so many men died. Wars today don't seem to take the volumes of soldier lives as they used to.
Are the schools to blame? Should they take the kids out on school trips to military museums, to memorials, to cemetaries? YES THEY SHOULD. We should stop insulating kids from the horrors of the past, present or future. Only by shocking them can we make them remember and realise how powerful their actions can be, how they can stop this happening in the future.
We need to show them the war in a way that they can smell it, touch it, feel it, visit the old buildings, see the photos, touch the uniforms, watch the film footage, read the stories or let them talk to the veterans themselves. But most of all, take them to the cemetaries and show them the memorials and the graves - let them walk down those rows and rows of pristine white tombstones, and read the names upon them - the miles and miles of names - each one a son, a father, a brother, a husband. Each young life snuffed out all for the power whims of a few evil men.
Last September I went to Normandy with my dad and we did the battlefield tour, and we went to Omaha Beach cemetary. It was the first really big WW2 cemetary I had ever visited, and I was both shocked, awed, upset and angry all at once at the sight before me. As I padded along on the damp dewy grass down the endless rows of white crosses, each white cross whispered to me as I walked past - "Never forget", never forget what we did for you", and most of all, "NEVER LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN".
But it is happening again, all over the world we still have wars, and all over the world men and women are dying, for the power whims of a few evil men. When will it stop, WILL IT EVER STOP?
If the children of my generation and all future generations can learn from the acres of white crosses in the cemetaries all over the world, if it makes them resolve to never let it happen again, then your work will be done, that will be your legacy. The future lies with them, make them understand that this has to NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.
Now go out and buy a Poppy, chat to the old veteran who is selling them - he may be full of remarkable stories, he may have been a tank commander, he may have stormed the beaches of Normandy, he may have captured German soldiers. It is also highly likely that he saw his closest friends blown to pieces, or held him as the life slipped away from him, or said goodbye to him one day then posted his personal effects off to his family the next. He deserves a few minutes of your precious time and some money for a Poppy. Him and his generation will not be around for much longer, and the world will be an emptier place for it.