This coming Sunday, November the 11th, at 11 a.m. marks the 94th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Great War for Civilization, better known as "The war to end all wars.”
The vast German army had been beaten into submission in France after a grisly, hard-fought war in which Europe was pulverized and countless thousands of soldiers and citizens were killed, mutilated and lost to society.
Wretched survivors of the filthy, rat-infested trenches of the front found their way to the rear along with enemy soldiers, dazed and completely bewildered, struggling with what little strength they had to home and their loved ones.
The First World War was the most despicable act of brutal slaughter that civilized man had ever encountered on such a large scale. How, on Christmas Eve, both sides laid their rifles down and slithered through the mud out of their trenches to shake hands with the enemy side is beyond comprehension!
Standing amid the barbed-wire fences, both sides were said to have removed their helmets, joined together in friendship and sang the universal hymn, "Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright.”
When the dawn broke, the helmets went back on and the mud-spattered soldiers filed back into their own trenches. All this goes to prove that it is the giants that design the wars like a chess game and the little guys, the pawns that pay the awesome price.
So when we stop to buy a simple little poppy from an old veteran, we are asked to remember them. This old fellow with gleaming medals strung proudly across his breast is a living remnant of a yesterday war that many would prefer to forget. He was once very young, athletic, daring and ready to go as most in their 20s are.
Look deeply into those old eyes under a furrowed brow and you will still see that old spark of patriotism that he has worn his entire life. He passes you a poppy in remembrance of his buddies, some who made it and others who never saw their beloved Canada again.
I was so proud the other day when I saw two young bucks in their 20s stop and buy poppies from an old veteran.
During the Second World War, I recall clearly young men that age flying huge Lancaster bombers over Germany. Many went down with their planes, never living to see 25, come home, get married and have kids.
Wars never change, except for new weaponry and uniforms, as seen recently in Afghanistan, where more than 150 of our bravest men and women paid the price for freedom.
Those brave young Canadians know full well the price that they may have to pay when they volunteer!
They accept the challenge and don't ask anyone to pity them. That is the Soldiers Code!
All they and their forefathers ask is that you remember them for what they are fighting for.
So next time you are confronted by an old soldier, let him pin his poppy on over your heart. Pray to God that we won't ever have to send our sons and daughters away to fight yet another useless war.
What does the poppy mean to you? Have you bought one?
Mountain historian Colwyn Beynon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.