I'm so angry I could spit.
As some of you know, I'm something of a military history maven, particularly Canadian military history, and a supporter of the good works of the Royal Canadian Legion and our service men and women, especially those of the world wars and Korea.
Also, as some of you know, I'm a former reporter/photographer and reluctant newspaper editor. I am still on e-mailout lists for some police forces, and I read the daily releases with a professional and usually detached interest.
It was with dismay, then, that I saw the most recent blotter update from one department that said a man and a woman stole poppy collection boxes from two area businesses. They entered and exchanged empty boxes for ones containing donations. To make matters worse, they did it on Nov. 11 – Remembrance Day.
For those unaware of the poppy drive, it's an annual fundraising tradition dating back to just after the First World War. Although the symbol of the poppy dates to the wars of Napoleonic era, it was an American woman named Moina Michael who first started wearing one in New York in 1918 after reading Lt.-Col. John McCrae's “In Flanders Fields”. A visiting Frenchwoman, a Mme Guerin, took the idea back home with her in 1920, and from there it grew.
Canada's Great War Association – the predecessor to the Legion – started it here in 1922. Production of the bright red imitation poppies, with their black centre pierced by a pin, was a way for disabled veterans to earn a little income, and the drive has been going strong ever since.
Boxes are put in local businesses and those wishing to donate – it doesn't matter how much – take a poppy to wear on the left breast lapel over the heart. After the Remembrance Day ceremony on Parliament Hill at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, thousands of spectators leave theirs to blanket the Tomb of the Unknown, a tradition that started a few years ago. I always leave mine pinned to one of the wreaths at our local Cenotaph.
Money collected from the drive is used to further the work of the Legion, whether it's helping aging veterans or teaching youngsters about our history or collating material for remembrance or whatever. The theft of that money was a dastardly, cowardly, despicable deed. And no, I don't want to hear about how they were probably stealing to buy food. I've heard that excuse before.
The worst of me hopes that this man and woman, whoever they are, are caught and turned over to our remaining Second War vets for about half an hour before they're formally arraigned. That'll be me, on the sidelines, cheering.