The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LIFE + TIMES -

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.

Sources: Na­tional Cen­ter for Vet­er­ans Anal­y­sis and Sta­tis­tics, Reperes, The As­so­ci­ated Press, The Amer­i­can Le­gio, U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs

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