By Jon ‘OC’ O’Connor, Commander, Anthony Hunt Hamilton Post 221, American Legion
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Turn on your TVs, laptops, and smartphones between now and Memorial Day– you’ll be bombarded by commercials touting the big holiday savings going on this weekend. Cars, BBQs, potato chips, hot dogs, all vying for your sense of celebration and your dollars. This time of year, the perennial battle for our souls mounts another attack between our wallets and a tradition going back to the early days of the 20th century. A tradition of honoring those who gave their lives fighting for their country.
To those who are over sixty, this 100th year anniversary of the United States entry into World War I (WWI) has a different paradigm than what younger generations are accustomed to. Those of us over 60 still probably have vivid memories of their grandfathers’ or grandmothers’ involvement in WWI. I clearly remember the stories from my Grandfather who flew Italian bi-planes, and how he was shot down by a German Albatross over the Aegean Sea.
In 1915 during a battle near the Ypres-Yser Canal in Belgium, a Canadian Officer wrote some of the most famous lines of literature related to WWI. His poem In Flanders Field immortalized the red poppy flower as a symbol of war. After the war, Moina Belle Michael returned from war-torn Europe to Georgia. The professor made it her lifetime ambition to remember, or as she put it, “keeping the faith with all who died.” To this day, the red poppy symbolizes our national emblem of remembrance.
At the 1920 National American Legion Conference in Cleveland, the Flanders Field Red Poppy was accepted as a symbol, as a result of a campaign spearheaded by the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA). It is with that spirit of “commitment to remembering” that many of us in Bedford will also remember one of our very own ALA members.
For the rest of our lives, not only will many of us remember those who gave their lives to keep us free on Memorial Day, but also of those who ardently supported the Red, White, and Blue while they lived among us. Now when I see Red Poppies, I’ll be forever reminded of Irene Rivet, arguably the most ardent supporter of those who serve or served in the Armed Forces.
Irene, a keenly patriotic member of Bedford’s ALA Post 221 set the highest of standards for all of us to follow. She “kept the faith” for those who, like her husband Roger, were imprisoned during WWII. Even after his safe return, Irene’s never-ending support for service members reached remarkable levels. Her passionate involvement continued at both the VFW and American Legion while assisting Vets at the VA for more than six decades, setting an example that may prove impossible to follow.
When you see men and women promoting the Red Poppies, please stop and support their efforts. This year we lost too many of our patriotic mentors like Irene & Roger Rivet. Individuals like them certainly would have BBQs; even on Memorial Day, but let us strive to remember the real meaning of Poppies, Memorial Day and those who fought for us.
All Gave Some -Some Gave All.
Jon “OC” OConnor