Letter to the Editor (INH)
To the Editor:
In order to effectively implement the Poppy Program, it is important to understand the history behind the program.
At the end of World War I, the American Legion adopted the poppy as a symbol of freedom and the blood sacrificed by troops in wartime.
The use of the poppy symbolically comes from the poem In Flanders Fields which movingly begins, “In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row,” referring to poppies that sprang up in the churned-up earth of newly dug soldiers’ graves over parts of Belgium and France.
The poem was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier. The first printed version of it reportedly was in December 1915, in the British magazine Punch.
In Flanders Field
In Flanders Field, 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 dead. Short days ago
We lived, felddawn, 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
In Flanders fields.
McCrae’s poem had a huge impact on two women, Anne E. Guerin of France and Moina Michael of Georgia.
Guerin had difficulty with the distribution of the poppies in 1922 and sought out Michael for help. Michael read the famous poem published in a Ladies Home Journal while attending the annual YMCA Overseas Conference.
On the back of an envelope, Michael quickly penned her response to McCrae’s verse with her own poem titled, We Shall Keep the Faith. The last stanza captures her idea to wear a poppy in honor of the war dead:
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that you have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
After jotting down her poem, Michael excitedly declared “I shall buy red poppies....I shall always wear red poppies.....poppies of Flanders Fields!”
Today, veterans at VA medical facilities and veterans homes help assemble the poppies which are distributed by veterans services organizations throughout the country. The poppy itself continues to serve as a perpetual tribute to those who have given their lives for the nation’s freedom.
“The Flower of Remembrance” will be distributed in Clarissa on Friday, May 13 by American Legion Auxiliary members.
Your donation to the Poppy Program is appreciated.
Auxiliary Unit 23
Barb Peterson, President