The Lone Poppy
by Phil G. Busey, Sr.
Founder and CEO
The Busey Group of Companies and DRG
The red poppy stood alone in a broad expanse of green behind Omaha Beach in Normandy. Alone, on the sight of the horrific battles on D-Day, June 6th, 1944 where so many young Americans fought, sacrificed and gave their lives. Fighting, as generations of our soldiers have, for values they hold greater than themselves. Here, they fought across this field, part of the greatest military operation the world has known. Allies together, landed on the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from the brutal Nazi regime. To end the costliest war in lives lost in world history.
Sharing this image and in reflection, this “Lone Red Poppy” was standing as if a sentinel for all of us. A poignant reminder honoring so many that had served and those that died. By itself, in the moment, representing millions who have served and sacrificed for our democracy. From the Revolution to today.
My daughter Emily and I were driving inland after visiting Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery on the coast. Both by themselves beautiful while sobering. 75 years ago, this was the scene of the D-Day landing. In such a place there is an unexplainable presence that something significant happened. Evoking an acknowledgment that this is a sacred place. Now quiet and peaceful – peace came at a high cost. The landscape has been etched by an invisible awareness of the courage, integrity and dedication of those who fought here. Symbolic of our men and women in uniform ever willing from generation to generation to give their all for us.
We have the greatest military in the world. Assembled not for conquest or expanding territories and subjugation. But to defend freedom, democracy and fight, if needed, against oppression for those who cannot. Guardians of the soul of our nation. Always ready and willing to do right. Even when our leaders lose their way.
Emily captured the image of the lone red poppy unintentionally. She was photographing the serene fields and hills beyond the beach. She was stunned to find the image of the poppy in her picture. It was an experience in grace. We named the image the “Lone Poppy”.
The “Lone Poppy” seems a singular divine symbol that powerfully says to us – do not forget all that happened here, do not forget the price paid. Do not forget the courage of boys turned into men. Duty to country and risking all for the world. Acts of heroism that will forever define these beaches, fields, hedgerows and beyond. Heroism that regardless of time should define us.
For over 100 years, since WWI. Red poppies have been the symbol of the sacrifice of veterans and civilians alike. The red does not represent bloodshed in battle but hope on the battlefield. Amidst all the desolation of trench warfare in Europe, red poppies would sprout and grow on the barren battlefields. Uplifting the spirits of those fighting in the “Great War”.
The Lone Poppy in Normandy is a vivid reminder. While we pause to honor our veterans on each Veterans Day, we must honor them every day by not forgetting what they have done for us and what they risk today. The Lone Poppy is a message of the hope for peace after war and also reminder of the cost of preserving our democracy and one day, an enduring peace. From Flanders Field, but also, Yorktown, Gettysburg, Normandy, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Only a few of countless battlefields around the world. Places where our best and finest sacrificed.
With gratitude and humility, let’s always honor the millions of Americans who died in U.S. Wars and millions who served. As Churchill once said, “We owe so much to so few.”
For us, our children and grandchildren brave men and women uphold their solemn oath to protect and defend our democracy. We should be wiling to do no less. As written in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”
For those American’s before and in harm’s way give thanks. Pray, with the grace of God, we will live in a way that they would be proud. And at least partially, have the courage and faith they had and have to uphold our lasting principles of a just democracy. For all people.
The image of the Lone Poppy, standing in silence, is a powerful statement all of us and as Rotarians. Principles defined by honor, service, gratitude and humility for all those who served, gave and still risk their lives for us today. We are called to serve wisely and with open hearts.