I just met the “Poppy Chairman”, Paul Corwin this weekend. I found his phone number in the newspaper when I was looking for details about Barrington’s Memorial Day Parade. When he picked up the phone, I said something like, “Hi Paul. My name is Liz and I wondered if you might share some information with me about the Memorial Day parade and festivities on Monday”. There was dead silence on the other end of the line… I had chosen the wrong word. “Festivities” does not apply. After an awkward pause, Paul politely reminded me that the Memorial Day Parade “is no Fourth of July Parade”. It is a solemn salute. Gulp!
After some more explanation and friendly conversation, Paul warmed up to me a little bit. He told me that he gets lots of phone calls around this time of year, from politicians and people who want to use Barrington’s Memorial Day Parade as an opportunity to push their agendas. It’s no wonder why Paul was so quick to question my motives. I told him I just wanted to get to know him, and he agreed to meet me.
Paul Corwin is the incoming Commander of Barrington’s VFW Post 7706.
He spoke with such pride about the medals he wears on Memorial Day.
They belonged to his father who was in the Navy’s Submarine Service during World War II.
His dad earned the “Prisoner of War” medal spending three years captive in a Japanese camp after his submarine came under attack and sunk in shallow waters in the Java Sea back in 1943.
Paul himself served two tours in the US Navy during the Vietnam War.
He says he remembers those days like they were yesterday and remains closely connected to the local veterans who have also served our country. On July 1st, Paul will take over the Commander’s post of Barrington VFW Post 7706.
But he’s been the “Poppy Chairman” for the past four years.
That means he’s the guy in charge of distributing and collecting donations for little red silk poppy stems, assembled by disabled veterans who need a little pocket change.
The money raised locally in the VFW “Buddy Poppy” campaign goes to the Veterans Hospital in North Chicago.
Paul was on duty, passing out poppies all weekend at the Barrington Art Festival.
The most beautiful thing about the veterans’ “Buddy Poppy” campaign is its origin and its symbolism. The red poppy became associated with war with the publication of a poem back in 1915, written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae after he witnessed the death of his friend during World War I. The poem, “In Flanders Fields“, describes blowing fields of red poppies among the battleground of the fallen.
In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
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.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
You’ll find incoming VFW Commander, Paul Corwin, in today’s Barrington Memorial Day Parade which starts at 10AM at the corner of Main and Cook Streets. Veterans, Barrington High School students, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts will parade West on Main Street (Lake-Cook Road) and go South on Dundee Avenue, ending at Evergreen Cemetery where over 130 Barrington area veterans are buried. At 11AM, there will be a short ceremony at “Soldiers and Sailors” monument at the cemetery. If you’d like to help local veterans, find Paul Corwin today or give him a call at 847-842-9139. He’s a nice guy get to know.