A tradition that began honoring World War I veterans and is still popular on Veterans Day and Memorial Day is the wearing of red poppies.
The tradition began after a Canadian soldier, Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., had his poem “In Flanders Fields” published. McCrae’s inspiration came from the red poppies growing around the graves for fallen soldiers in France and Belgium.
In November 1918, Moina Michael of New York was inspired by the poem and began to use red poppies as a memorial emblem.
In 1921, the American Legion sought to
connect the visual image of the poppy with the sacrifice made by our veterans.
On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, millions of handmade red crepe paper poppies are distributed across the country in exchange for donations that go directly to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans.
In 2017, American Legion Auxiliary members raise more then $5.5 million from poppy donations, which was used exclusively to support active-duty military, veterans and their families through the Auxiliary outreach program services.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, rown 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 fiels.
— Lt. Col. John McCrea, a Canadian physician and poet who fought in Belgium. He wrote the poem after a close friend was killed in action.