Traces of a Battlefield

Somewhere, a poppy grows in a field—a small scarlet beam of remembrance, death, and honor.

If you’re familiar with the pop culture history of the poppy, you might think of a Van Gogh still life or even opium. Fair enough. But if you’re versed in military history, you might recognize the poppy as the symbolic flower of Memorial Day. And if you’re not, well, settle in—it’s a good story.

John McCrae, a World War I lieutenant colonel, physician, poet, and native Canadian, based his iconic poem “In Flander’s Fields” on the poppy. The poem, which speaks from the perspective of dead soldiers, was written after McCrae noticed how quickly poppies began growing over the graves of his fallen fellow soldiers after a May 1915 battle. The poem was published months later, and the poppy became a symbol of remembrance, death, and honor in Canada, the Commonwealth Nations, and the United States. The poppy was the first flower at the war grave.

So, we stand in Iraq watching the poppies blow in a gentle breeze. It’s strange noticing a flower with such weighted meaning in a landscape that has been so torn and tangled with war and violent religious clashes. There are no marked graves—only poppies in a field.

Reload Love does quite a bit of work in Iraq, despite the complex and often volatile relationship between it and our home country. Our battle isn’t against political regimes and we don’t fight with guns. We fight to help kids caught in the crossfire of terrorism, and instead of rolling tanks into Iraqi villages, we roll in playground equipment and open arms of love, to bring healing where there has been pain.

This Memorial Day, we acknowledge the sacrifice of men and women who have paid the ultimate price for the sake of liberty, freedom, and peace. Despite the complicated nature of war and socio-political attitudes, we know everyone can agree on two things: the dead should be honored, and children should be protected.

Our poppy necklace was created in honor of the poppy and the life and sacrifice it symbolizes—a scarlet beam of remembrance. It is meant to honor soldiers and veterans who have given their lives in the fight against terrorism, which is also the fight for its youngest victims.

For the soldiers, children, and the fight to protect peace and life—lest we forget.