Monday, May 14, 2012

Red Poppies

Every year around this time, former service men stand outside various stores selling red paper poppies with the proceeds going to various veteran outreach centers in our communities.  I buy the poppies every year and am sure to thank the person selling them for their service.  I don't just buy them because I have uncles, cousins, and friends who served but because the funds go to help the men and women who have sacrificed so much so I can live the life I do. 

Why poppies and not some other more well-known flower?

 It's said the red poppies referred to in the poem, In Flanders Fields, have been associated with war since the time of the Napoleonic Wars when it was first noted how the poppies grew over the graves of soldiers.  It's also said when John McCrae wrote the poem, he was looking out over a nearby cemetery, and could see the wild poppies that sprang up on the graves of the fallen. 

Do you know why the red poppies are sold?

In 1918, there was an American professor named Moina Michael who, inspired by the poem, decided to wear a red poppy year round to honor the soldiers who died in World War I.  She distributed silk poppies to her friends and campaigned to have it adopted as an official symbol of remembrance by the American Legion.  She also wrote a poem entitled, We Shall Keep The Faith, in response to In Flanders Fields.

In case you're not familiar with this poem, I've included it below.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
 
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.



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