Veterans Day and Red Poppies


Tower of London, September 2014, by David Kronberg

November 11 is Veteran’s Day in the United States, the day originally designated in 1919, to honor those who have served in the armed forces.

President Woodrow Wilson designated that particular day because the belligerent powers signed an armistice to halt World War I on November 11, 1918 at 11 o’clock in the morning. For that reason, it was originally called “Armistice Day.”

My husband, a US Navy veteran, likes to point out Veterans Day is NOT the same as Memorial Day (celebrated the last Monday in May). “Memorial Day remembers those who lost their lives defending the United States. Veteran’s day is just to honor those who have served,” he reminds us most years.

(Note: there is no apostrophe in Veterans Day. Wikipedia explains: “While the holiday is commonly printed as Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day in calendars and advertisements [spellings that are grammatically acceptable], the United States government has declared that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling.”)

While the United States remembers its veterans this week, other countries around the world are also acknowledging the men and women who served. Great Britain honors its soldiers with Remembrance Day. Red poppies are handed out, often with copies of the famous poem, In Flanders Field by John McCrae. You know how it begins:

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.

Red poppies became a symbol of remembrance from the war–the red symbolizing all the blood spilled in death. This year, 2014, the United Kingdom has memorialized the 800,000+ deaths from their country during World War I by “spilling” red ceramic poppies from The Tower of London. You can see what the moat looked like in September, 2014 in the photo above.

Poppies grow all over the world, but became associated with the dead of World War I because they grew up so quickly over ground churned up by battles. If you were in London this week, you’d probably be handed a red poppy like the one I received last year, to pin to your lapel.  veteran

Our church on Sunday recognized all the veterans in the congregation by having them stand and be acknowledged. I was surprised by how many we have, including one woman who served in the Navy in the 1970’s–well before women became as plentiful in the service as they are now. (And the stories she can tell . . . ).

Our military ministry committee (which has sent letters and cards to service men and women around the globe the last five years), put together a album telling our veterans’ stories with photos. The album sat on a table beside the narthex doors and featured photos of the service members and other patriotic decorations. Many of us stopped to look through it.

We fly our flag on November 11 to honor my husband, but also those family members who have served in the armed forces. Most of them are dead dead now– though none in my family have been killed in uniform since Captain Henry Arthur Dial of the North Carolina militia in 1753. (French and Indian War).

Serving in the armed forces made a difference in the lives of my family.

As a genealogist, I’ve learned some eight ancestors assisted the patriots in the American Revolution.  One of my ancestors was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate States Army–at the same time distant cousin Abraham Lincoln was the president of the United States.

Doughboy veteran

Pvt. Antonio Ruvolo 1918

My grandfather, Antonio Ruvolo earned his American citizenship by serving in the US Army during World War I. You can read more about his surprising story here.

My uncles Joseph Duval and Claude Duval both became skilled electricians in the service and spent the rest of their lives working in electronics, computers and other communication technology.

My father-in-law Louis Ule also served during the waning months of World War II.

My father, Bennett Duval, was a lieutenant during the Korean War–arriving on an aircraft carrier the day the war ended.

My husband, of course, served as a submarine officer for 20 years.

Americans learned a hard lesson following the Viet Nam War. So many veterans of that war were not welcomed home that many of us felt ashamed. Since the First Gulf War, we’ve changed and now veterans are greeted with respect and honor.

I’m thankful for that change.


Lt Bennett Duval, USNR

Most of the veterans I know will tell you they don’t need to be feted or honored; they were just doing their job.

But I’ll say thanks anyway to them.

And I’ll thank God that the red poppy is not pertinent to my family’s history.


Veterans Day and Red Poppies, what it means. Click to Tweet

Remembering a family of veterans on Veterans Day. Click to Tweet

Why no apostrophe in Veterans Day? Click to Tweet







Leave a comment


  1. kare2012

     /  November 11, 2014

    In Canada, we too, wear a poppy from October 30th to noon on Remembrance Day. It is now a newer tradition to leave the poppy on the memorial as one is leaving the annual Remembrance Day service.

  2. Lovely post.

    My position as a contractor has always given me pause – do I stand or not, when the veterans are called to attention?

    It’s a tough one, because ‘contractor’ can and has been defined as ‘mercenary’. It’s not a word that commends respect, but I am not ashamed. I fought for the interests of my country, and so that its citizens could sleep well at night.

    I’d do it again, and if the cost is a life in the shadows, so be it.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  November 11, 2014

      The contractors, particularly recently, have paid a heavy price. They may have been paid more (or not, I don’t know), but they certainly faced the same dangers. So I’ll stand up in your honor, Andrew!


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