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The Little Red Flower

Saturday, May 23, 2015 @ 9:51 AM
The Little Red Flower Teddy James Writer, AFA Journal MORE
If you see or receive a red poppy this Memorial Day, use it as a reminder to be grateful for the sacrifice paid for your freedom and pray for the families of those who made that sacrifice. - Teddy James

I remember as a child walking out of Wal-Mart and seeing elderly men handing out red poppies to people passing by. Every time, I would ask my dad who they were and why they were handing out flowers. My dad, after giving the men some money and receiving the flower, would kneel down on my level and explain the significance of the little red flower in his hand. 

“Son,” he would tell me, “these represent soldiers who died in our wars. These men are men who fought for your freedom on foreign soil. You owe them your respect and gratitude.” 

Being a member of the military since he was old enough to enlist, my father never missed an opportunity to remind me that our military is not a machine. It is made up of real people with families. It is created by the sacrifice of some. It should be honored by all. 

This Memorial Day, look for veterans distributing red flowers. Often the tiniest items have the grandest stories. The red poppies are no exception. 

The first publicized connection between soldiers and red poppies came from Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician, who wrote “In Flanders Fields” around 1915 after officiating the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer who died in a major battle of World War 1. 

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. 

Reportedly he did not like the poem, saying it was not any good. But Moina Michael, an American professor and humanitarian, was inspired by it. She wrote a poem in response titled, “We Shall Keep the Faith.” 

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet - to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.

 

We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields.

 

And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields. 

From the day she wrote the poem forward, she committed to wearing a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance. Others caught her vision and soon people were wearing red poppies all over the country. On Memorial Day in 1922 the Veterans of Foreign Wars conducted its first poppy distribution. 

The VFW then started making Buddy Poppies, artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. The veterans were paid for their work. The tradition continues today. So if you donate or purchase a Buddy Poppy by a veteran this weekend, know that your money is going to support wounded and disabled veterans. You can learn more about the Buddy Poppies at https://www.vfw.org/Community/Buddy-Poppy/ 

If you see or receive a red poppy this Memorial Day, use it as a reminder to be grateful for the sacrifice paid for your freedom and pray for the families of those who made that sacrifice.

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