Purple poppy honours animals who ‘also served’ in war

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
November 8, 2018 - 5:00am Updated: November 8, 2018 - 1:17pm
Image Credit: Mel Rothenburger

I’M GUESSING YOU HAVEN’T noticed, but I like to wear a different lapel pin every day on the Armchair Mayor. I have so many of them I expect that a year from now I won’t have worn any of them twice.

I almost never seek them out — people like to hand out lapel pins wherever they go. I’ve got them from cities across Canada and several other countries. I’ve received them from charitable organizations, groups holding anniversaries and those raising money.

Among my favourites, though, are my collections of Kami pins and Maple Leafs. And, of course, this time of year we all proudly and respectfully wear our red poppies in honour of our veterans. Recently, white poppies have come on the scene, worn by some as a message of peace.

Today the poppy I wear is neither red nor white; it’s purple.

The purple poppy, like the red, honours those who went to war. But it isn’t for people, it’s for the millions of animals who have served, often heroically, and very often at the cost of their own lives.

They aren’t volunteers, although many of them perform amazing feats. They’ve been used as beasts of burden or for tracking, or for rescue, and they go to war because we ask them to and they answer the call.

According to the Animals in War Memorial Fund, eight million horses and mules died in the First World War, the 100th anniversary of which we celebrate this year. One hundred thousand pigeons played crucial roles in communications. Dogs, camels, elephants, goats, even cats have served in many conflicts.

There are monuments to the animals of war in England and France.

They even have their own medal, their version of the Victoria Cross. One recipient was a famous thoroughbred named Warrior, who perhaps inspired the fictional movie War Horse.

Purple poppy lapel pins aren’t easy to get — I ordered mine from the U.K.

It says simply, “They also served,” and I’m proud to wear it during this season of remembrance.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at [email protected].