Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why the Heck do They Sell Those Dumb Poppies Every Year?

Most of us expect to see some old veteran or some “nice lady of the auxiliary” standing in front of a grocery store - a street corner or in front of the courthouse later this month. They will be out there trying to sell us a Poppy. 

Every year the VFW’s and American Legion’s ask us to buy and wear a Red Poppy, yet few people actually know why? With Memorial Day fast approaching (Monday, May 29th) I thought I would share amazing trivia about the Poppies. 

The reason we are asked to wear Poppies is to remember fallen soldiers. Sadly many people who buy Poppies don’t know this. Second, few if any who buy Poppies know how to properly wear them. A Poppy should always be worn on the ‘right side’ of one’s chest – as near to the heart as possible. 

The red of the Poppy is meant to represent the blood each veteran shed when they gave their life. Sometimes black is seen on a Poppy. The black represents the mourning the loved ones endured when their soldiers did not return home. Finally, the green leaf on the poppy represents the grass and crops now growing, and the prosperity that came, after the war - even though the fields where battles were fought were destroyed.

If there is one thing to remember from reading this article it’s this - Remember the green leaf on the Poppy should always be positioned at the 11 o'clock position. This position represents the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month - the actual time that World War One officially ended.

The idea of wearing a Poppy was inspired by a simple poem - a poem written by Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian surgeon with Canada's First Brigade Artillery during World War I. Colonel McCrae wrote his poem shortly after visiting an old battle field which had been transformed into a cemetery. Hit with sadness he needed to express his grief after seeing "row upon row" of graves - for all the soldiers who had died on Flanders' field - a major battlefield - located in western Belgium and northern France.

The poem he wrote created an image of what he saw - bright red flowers growing among the rows and rows of white crosses on the field. His poem about Flanders Field made the Poppy a rallying cry for all who fought in the First World War. Below Coloneil McCrae's actual poem:

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.

Colonel McCrae’s poem was first printed in December 1915, in a British magazine and it had a huge impact in Europe - especially on two women - Anna E. Guerin of France and Moina Michael a Georgia native now living in Western Europe. Both ladies worked tirelessly to initiate the sale of poppies. Their goal was to raise money to help orphans, widows and others impacted by the war. In 1920, with the help of the American Legion, Mrs. Guerin, was able to establish the first annual Poppy sale in the U.S.

The Poppy, already a well known flower in all the allied countries - Britain, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – was known as the "Flower of Remembrance." In 1922 the VFW adopted the Poppy as the official memorial flower at its national convention in Seattle, Wash. However in 1923, there was a shortage of Poppies so the VFW decided to rely on unemployed and disabled veterans to produce the artificial Poppies needed. Today, the VFW and American Legion Auxiliary sell roughly 14 million Poppies.

All the proceeds generated from the sales their Poppies go to help veterans, their widows, widowers and orphans all over the world. Amazingly, the Poppy itself still survives and grows each year in Flanders’s Field as a perpetual tribute to those who gave their lives for freedom so many years ago.

So this year during the Memorial Day weekend, if you see an old veteran or a beautiful woman standing outside somewhere selling Poppies try to make a point to buy one. There is no set fee required - a nickel, dime or quarter would be fine, but if you can – try to throw in an extra buck or two and please, please, please wear your Poppy correctly.

Note:  Seldom, if ever, do I ever ask any post of mine be shared; but this is one post I respectfully ask you to share so people know about the significance of the Poppy.


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