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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Poppy Days: Remembering Our Veterans' Sacrifices

Today, PTSD Combat is 'pinning a poppy on' in order to pay tribute to our veterans. The Concord Monitor:

The distribution of the bright red memorial flower is one of the oldest and most widely recognized programs of the [American Legion and] Auxiliary. From the battlefields of World War I, weary soldiers brought home the memory of a barren landscape transformed by wild poppies.

To honor their sacrifice, communities and veterans organizations across the nation (and world) kick up programs and events geared towards helping our current crop of veterans throughout May's Poppy Days. I'll share more history, a short listing of local dates (drives vary throughout the month of May), and poetry to pay tribute to those who served in The Great War -- and beyond.

Also see the companion piece, Poppy Days: Dates, Drives, and Donations, at ePluribus Media for creative ways to help our veterans and their dependents this month of remembrance.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

From the the TCPalm:

May, more than any other month, is a time to set aside our petty neighborhood squabbles and reflect on the sacrifices so many men and women of this country have made to keep us free.

Included among the notable days of reflection are Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, not to mention Mother's Day. Symbolic of these somber times is the poppy flower, which the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have for many years adopted as their fundraising figure.

The red poppy became associated with war after the publication of a poem written by Col. John McCrae of Canada during World War I, says the Web site of the VFW. The poem, "In Flanders Fields," describes blowing red fields 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.

For more than 80 years, both the American Legion and the VFW's Poppy and Buddy Poppy programs, respectively, have raised millions of dollars in support of veterans' welfare and the well being of their dependents. Those red poppies are still assembled by disabled and needy veterans in VA Hospitals.

The poppy was not chosen at random; its symbolism is both powerful and compelling. The petals of red stand for the vast outpouring of blood; The yellow and black center, the mud and desolation of all battlefields; the green of the stem is symbolic of the forests, meadows and fields where generations of Americans have perished to make generations free.

The stem represents the courage and determination of our fallen warriors. The assembled product, a flower, is a symbol of Resurrection, which is sure to follow.

And this from the Great Poems of the World War: Electronic Edition, W. D. Eaton:


IN The Stars And Stripes, A.E.F., France

POPPIES in the wheat fields on the pleasant hills of France,
Reddening in the summer breeze that bids them nod and dance;
Over them the skylark sings his lilting, liquid tune--
Poppies in the wheat fields, and all the world in June.

Poppies in the wheat fields on the road to Monthiers--
Hark, the spiteful rattle where the masked machine guns play!
Over them the shrapnel's song greets the summer morn--
Poppies in the wheat fields--but, ah, the fields are torn.

See the stalwart Yankee lads, never ones to blench,
Poppies in their helmets as they clear the shallow trench,
Leaping down the furrows with eager, boyish tread
Through the poppied wheat field to the flaming woods ahead.

Poppies in the wheat fields as sinks the summer sun,
Broken, bruised and trampled--but the bitter day is won;
Yonder in the woodland where the flashing rifles shine,
With their poppies in their helmets, the front files hold the line,

Poppies in the wheat fields; how' still beside them lie
Scattered forms that stir not when the star shells burst on high;
Gently bending o'er them beneath the moon's soft glance,
Poppies of the wheat fields on the ransomed hills of France

Poppy Days Events

  • Nevada County, CA: Grass Valley Mayor Gerard Tassone has proclaimed May 5 and 6 as Poppy Days. Wilma Meyers told me that veterans and auxiliary members will be offering poppies at various businesses in Nevada County. These poppies are made by veterans at the Yountville Veterans Home. This is one way that they make spending money.

  • Clarion, PA: The Clarion American Legion Ladies Auxiliary is sponsoring its annual “Poppy Days,” Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6. Volunteers will be located throughout the community collecting contributions. Please help the legion help local veterans and their families.

  • Jupiter, FL: Members of the Auxiliary of American Legion Post No. 271 will be distributing red, handcrafted poppies, in honor of America's war dead, on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, at three locations in Jupiter.

  • Tehachapi, CA: The Tehachapi American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 221, has received notice that the official 2006 Poppy Days will be May 14 through May 20. Members of the American Legion and the Auxiliary will be on hand to offer the hand-made poppies and explain the meaning of them.

  • Lansing and Menominee, MI: American Legion Auxiliary Dept of Michigan holds its Poppy Days on May 18-20, 2006.

  • Hastings, MN: The Buddy Poppy will be in Hastings businesses by the end of this week. Hastings Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1210 and its auxiliary are sponsoring the annual drive, which will conclude with annual Poppy Days May 19 in Hastings.

  • Fort Pierce, FL: Sebastian's American Legion Post 189 and Auxiliary Members and Legionnaires will be stationed throughout the community May 19-20 for the annual distribution of these precious remembrances, says Shirley Thornton. Alice Leclerc is Poppy chairman. The VFW also distributes poppies before Memorial Day. In Barefoot Bay, VFW Post and Auxiliary 4425 will be out in force at Barefoot Bay locations, Winn- Dixie, from May 22-27 and Wachovia Bank, May 22-26, according to Joe Walker, post commander and Poppy chairman.

  • Warrenville, IL: Buddy Poppy Days May 19-20, 2006

  • Ellwood City, PA: May 20-21, 2006 Poppy Days throughout Ellwood City. Support Disabled Vets. Buy a poppy during Poppy Days.

  • Western Springs, IL: Poppy Days will be Wednesday, May 24, and Thursday, May 25, when the Veterans of Foreign Wars Western Springs Memorial Post 10778 collects donations for the Veterans Relief Fund. Since 1990, the post has donated several thousand dollars per year to meet the needs of patients and families at the Department of Veterans Affairs Edward Hines Jr. Hospital and the VFW National Home for Widows and Children in Eaton Rapids, Mich. The post welcomes donations, (708) 246-5759.

Please share your own local Poppy Days events in comments. You may wish to find your local American Legion office and ask when this event will take place in your own neighborhood.

I'll close the list on what may be the perfect little poem, written by one of the poppy makers at Yountville's [CA] Veterans Home:

A scrap of blood red paper,
A twist of green and black:
We make these poppies in memory,
Of the men who never came back

Far from home and loved ones,
They sleep in foreign lands;
So wear this poppy proudly,
Remembering for whom it stands.

Buy a poppy and wear it in remembrance this May.

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