Originally published in the Friday Flash on May 25, 2012:
Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer (growing up in small town in Northern Maine it usually seemed that summer didn’t begin till July 4th). As a child I remember that in days leading up to Memorial Day, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) would stand outside the grocery store requesting donations and handing out “Buddy Poppies.” To me, these men were a big deal, most were World War II or Korean War Veterans. These men were considered local heroes, highly respected for their service. One or two were World War I veterans—I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s and there were still many World War I veterans who were in their 60’s and 70’s. On Memorial Day our town would hold a parade honoring those who had fallen in service to our nation. All the local veterans would march in the parade, accepting donations and handing out Buddy Poppies.
So what is a “Buddy Poppy?” The Buddy Poppy was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” honoring the fallen of the First World War. The poem was written by Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian surgeon, who served in the War. The poem is haunting:
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
Scare 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 high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The red poppy flower became the “Flower of Remembrance” for those who served on the Allied side in the First World War. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold artificial poppies in America to support orphans and those left destitute by the war in Belgium and France. Subsequently, the Franco-American Children’s League dissolved, and in the spring of 1922 the VFW began selling poppies made in France to support the orphans and destitute. By 1924, the VFW began selling “Buddy Poppies” made by disabled veterans.
Since that time, the VFW’s National Buddy Poppy Committee has ensured that the artificial poppies are made by veterans located in VA Hospitals and facilities throughout the country. The proceeds from the sales of a Buddy Poppies primarily go to support local veteran services. So when you “contribute” or buy a Buddy Poppy at your local grocery store, it will support a veteran and a neighbor! Please, when you make your grocery list for the Memorial Day barbecue, make sure you include a “Buddy Poppy.”
This Memorial Day, please make sure you take time to honor all service men and women who have fallen in defense of freedom. God bless them and their families. God bless and protect all those in harm’s way. Please also remember those contractor personnel who have fallen while supporting our troops around the world.