Memorial Day has arrived and the small town I grew up and still reside will be holding the usual events, including the Memorial Day parade. As a child, I remember walking from our home to the main street, carrying a bag to fill up with the candy that would be thrown from the participants of the parade.
However, what stood out to me as a child were the little paper poppies that were given out. My mom made sure to hand over a donation and we received our poppies. I was a child and thought they were so pretty, but never asked what the poppy symbolized and why we received them on Memorial Day. As I grew older, I found out why.
During WWI, a Canadian soldier named John McCrae, was serving in Belgium. He was in an area where the landscape was destroyed due to the war when he noticed a place on the battlefield near trenches where the soldiers had buried their fallen brothers. On that site were thousands of little red flowers, the poppies, which had bloomed. He was so overcome with emotion by this sight of the poppies that he composed a poem “In Flanders Field”. The poem was written from the perspective of the dead on the battlefield.
Three years later, a YMCA Military volunteer, Moina Michael, read the poem which was published in the Ladies Home Journal magazine. She described the experience as “deeply spiritual” and made a vow to always keep the faith and from that point forward wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance to those who lost their lives.
In 1920, Moina met with a delegate to the Department of the American Legion who promised to present her campaign to its convention. They were so interested and moved by the story that they agreed to endorse the movement to have the Poppy adopted by the National American Legion.
Today, we still celebrate and honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty by wearing our poppies on Memorial Day.