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Front Page » May 14, 2002 » Opinion » The story of the poppy and our military
Published 4,493 days ago

The story of the poppy and our military


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By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate publisher

Many of us have been buying poppies most of our lives and I knew it was an important thing to do and that it represented the military in some fashion but I never knew the entire story until Lucie H. Cook of Price came into my office last week and explained the poppy story to me.

Colonel Dr. John McCrae and Moina Michael are two names which hardly create a ripple on the great sea of historical figures, and yet from their compassion, a Canadian surgeon and an American school teacher from Georgia, grew the idea of a memorial flower to commemorate the sacrifices made by young men who have answered the call in the time of war.

It seems fitting and certainly timely to give the poppy story following the September 11th attack and the events which have followed when so many have responded to their country.

Each day as Dr. McCrae struggled to save lives he saw the number of crosses marking those that had perished in battle grow. Inspired by the wild red poppies that sprang up in the fields of Flanders, France, he compiled the poem, "We Shall Not Sleep."

According to Lucie, "this poem was a plea from those who perished to the brave men who were still alive to flight on for those who lay buried beneath the fields of red poppies."

The poem retitled "In Flanders Fields" was published in the United States and was used as a recruiting incentive to rouse America's young men to join the military branch of their choice.

I grew up in Canada where literature was emphasized much more than it is today in our American schools. I remember as a youngster memorizing that poem and reciting "In Flanders Fields," never connecting the poem I knew so well with the efforts to sell the poppies in May.

In a magazine Michael read the touching words of that famous poem and answered by compiling "We shall Keep Faith." She pledged that she would always wear a red poppy in remembrance of all who had fallen and were buried in that field of red poppies.

On May 22, 1921, instigated by Michael at the American Legion Auxiliaries organizing convention, they adopted the red poppy as the memorial flower.

Lucie explained that, "replicas of this poppy are made by veterans in hospitals, rehabs, and care centers all over this great land," and said that this Saturday, May 18, the American Legion Auxiliaries from Helper and Price will be out and about with red poppies.

"I hope that the people in our communities will show patriotism and help these deserving souls that fought to keep this land free," added a proud Lucie Cook.

Making the poppies also aids veterans both financially and psychologically in addition to an endeavor that gives the veterans dignity.

This national event recognizes the contributions of generations of military men and women who played a vital role in fighting to keep America strong and secure for future generations.

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May 14, 2002
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