THE VETERANS' PRESS: LEST WE FORGET…
| May 31, 2021 1:00 AM
I never got to be a Poppy Girl. Yes…POPPY GIRL…in CAPITAL letters.
To me, it was THAT important. I was so jealous of my four younger sisters. They got to wear pretty flowery homemade dresses and hats, styled by our mama. They got to go to the Legion meetings with my dad, the Commander, and carry baskets of red crepe paper poppies. (Red was my favorite color — I could have DONE this!) They got to go to other assorted meetings throughout the town of Jerome; sing a song composed by mama, recite the poem “In Flanders Fields.” They got their picture in the newspaper. Sigh. They were young and cute and did a good job. They knew what it was all about…
After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. The red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during battle following the publication of the wartime poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died during the Second Battle of Ypres.
On Sept. 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion family as a Remembrance Day symbol to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program, generally led by the American Legion Auxiliary. Each year, members of The American Legion Family distribute poppies with a request that the person receiving the flower make a donation. All donations stay within the community to support the needs of veterans and active-duty military personnel.
Poppy Day is celebrated in countries around the world. The American Legion brought National Poppy Day to the United States by asking Congress to designate the Friday before Memorial Day, as National Poppy Day.
So, yeah…never got to be a Poppy Girl. But I have an old faded red crepe paper poppy hanging from my car rearview mirror. It’s to honor the fallen. It’s to support the living. It’s a REMEMBRANCE. In CAPITAL letters.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
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.
— Lt. Col. John McCrae