If you visit Great Britain or any Commonwealth country this time of year, you’ll notice one thing: an ocean of red poppies. From soccer players to schoolboys to business people, you’ll see everyone proudly sporting them.

Remembrance Day draws near, known as Veterans Day in the Commonwealth countries.  This Saturday, the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour all will fall silent in honor of those who have given all.  Remembrance Sunday follows the next day.

Why the red poppy? Because it was the only thing that could grow in western Europe amidst the devastation of trench warfare. And also because of a poem.

“In Flanders Fields” was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving in Flanders in 1915.  The reason for writing it was a grim one: a close friend of his had just been killed by a shell.  To console with his loss, McCrae penned the famous poem:

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