Editor's Note: Dan Turner spent some time at training camp in Oxnard this past summer and has been a guest on "Talkin' Cowboys" to share his stories and opinions from London. Dan (@dtsturner) has been contributing to DallasCowboys.com this week while the Cowboys are in London to play Jacksonville Sunday Wembley Stadium (Noon, CST).
LONDON- Walking up to the Tower of London, I already knew the sight that was about to greet my eyes. Even so, the power, and the poignancy of the view is incomparable to anything I've ever seen. I've been to the tower before. The magnificent walls, enshrouded in an eerie mist, encase many secrets, and which have stories to tell which changed the world back in its time. Then you look down, and you see red. Red streaming from the walls, and into the vast, dried up moat. In looking closer, you see that this red is poppies, 888,246 of them.
On Sunday, as the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars take the field, each player will have a poppy encrusted on their jersey and helmet. In talking with a number of Americans this week, most don't understand the meaning of it all. So I'll try to explain.
The Cowboys play the Jaguars on Sunday 9 November 2014. This is on what is called in the UK and Commonwealth, 'Remembrance Sunday', the Sunday closest to 11th November. 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, so holds extra significance. Remembrance Day is about commemorating all the fallen soldiers who have fallen from the British Commonwealth.
It is only fitting therefore, that a number of Americans have come over for the game. The Anglo-American relationship hasn't always been perfect, but the endeavour of both our countries played a significant role in the victorious outcome of the two world wars. Without the combined efforts from British and American troops at events like the Battle of Belleau Wood, North Africa Campaign, and D-Day, the world could be a different place now.
The poppy is the symbol of remembrance. In recent years, national pride has become a sensitive subject in Britain, so we don't have the same pride over the flag, or the national anthem, or the culture as Americans do. The poppy is different though. It is something which all should be proud of. It represents the men and women who provided the ultimate sacrifice for the future of Britain, for me, and everyone who lives in this country.
The poppy resonates with most people for one reason or other. For me, it reminds me of both my Granddad's. One, who died before I was born, flew a Lancaster Bomber plane in the Second World War, a machine which played a vital role in allied victory. My other Granddad fought in the North Africa Campaign. He once saved 200 people from a train bomb, and won a number of medals and promotions throughout the war. He's my hero. He passed away recently, and it is him who I remember when I wear my poppy.
The money raised by buying poppies goes to the Royal British Legion. It is a superb charity. The main work it does is to support families who have been left without fathers, mothers, children, husbands, and wives due to the sacrifice which was given up by their loved ones who fought in the armed forces. It also helps wounded ex-servicemen, and older veterans.
It means a huge amount to the British public that the Cowboys and Jaguars will wear poppies on Sunday. However, without understanding the meaning behind them, they're worthless.
888,246 soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth died in the First World War. They aren't just poppies, and they never will be.
'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.'