Today marks the centennial anniversary of the end to World War I, which was thought to be the war to end all wars.
Every year you will see Veterans from either the American Legion or the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars handing out handmade red poppies and receiving donations for the poppies. Have you ever wondered about the history of the poppies and why they are distributed on days we commemorate our service members?
History of the Poppies
During World War I from 1914 to 1918, Flanders Fields was a key theater location; located in the Belgium Flanders, it was the Northernmost point of the Western Front. It is estimated that one million soldiers from over 50 countries were either killed, wounded, or missing from this one area.
During the second battle of Ypres, located in West Flanders, in 1915, the Germans used chlorine gas for the first time. Prior to this, the war devastated the countryside turning it into a field of mud, and the chlorine gas made it so nothing could grow. As the story goes, while looking at his friend’s grave who was buried the day before, Lt. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician, sat on the back of an ambulance and saw red poppies growing throughout the burial ground. The poppies, refusing to give in, inspired him to write the now famous poem, In Flanders Fields.
The poem is credited as being the inspiration of several countries adopting the poppy as their flower of remembrance: Canada, the United States, France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth countries.
How befitting this year’s Veteran’s Day theme is titled The War to End All Wars and features a red poppy representing those who have died in combat, and the barbed wire representing the thousands of miles of wire used.
The Poppies Today
The VFW and the American Legion provide these poppies every year, usually around and during Memorial Day and Veteran’s day to help raise funds for Veterans in need.
The VFW’s “Buddy Poppy” and the American Legion’s “Memorial Poppy” are handmade by disabled and/or needy service members. The program not only provides financial assistance to the Veterans in need, but the physical and mental activity involved in making the poppies has many therapeutic benefits as well, such as concentration, having a sense of accomplishment, and more.
Where the money goes
All the money raised for the poppies are designated to help disabled service members, their families, and service members in need.
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.
This Article Sponsored By