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American Legion and the Red Poppy

Red Poppies show support for our veterans in Blairsville, Georgia and around the world

Each year around Memorial Day and Veterans Day, American Legion Auxiliary volunteers and Veterans of Foreign Wars members hand out millions of red poppies. The poppies are free but donations are greatly appreciated and go to a good cause.

Contributions are used to assist veterans and their families. The program provides many benefits. The hospitalized veterans who make the flowers are able to earn a small wage, which helps to supplement their incomes. The physical and mental activity also provides therapeutic benefits to these veterans.

The red poppies also help to remind people of past sacrifices and the continuing needs of hospitalized veterans, disabled veterans, and their families. The poppy is a nationally known and recognized symbol of sacrifice and is worn to honor the men and women who served and died for their country (in all wars).

Red poppies became a symbol of the sacrifices of war after the publication of a poem written by Col. John McCrae (1872-1918) of Canada.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

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.

The poem found its way into the pages of Punch magazine. By 1918 the poem was well known throughout the allied world. Moina Michael, an American woman born in Walton County, Georgia, wrote these lines in reply:

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.

She then adopted the custom of wearing a red poppy in memory of the sacrifices of war and also as a symbol of keeping the faith.

A French woman, Madam Guerin, learned of the custom and took it one step further. When she returned to France she decided to hand make the red poppies and sell them to raise money for the benefit of the orphaned and destitute women and children in war torn areas of France. This tradition spread to Canada, The United States, and Australia and is still followed today.

The American Legion was the first national organization to adopt the poppy as its Memorial Flower, having taken this action at the National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on September 27-29, 1920.

The American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as its Memorial Flower at its organizing convention held in Kansas City, in October 1921. At the time the American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy, it pledged 100% of the profits from poppy distribution to welfare relief for servicemen and servicewomen and their families, thus fulfilling the true meaning of the poppy, an emblem of faith (faith which is being kept with all who died through service to the living).

According to the American Legion Auxiliary website, “The American Legion Auxiliary memorial poppies are made of red crepe paper, by hand, by disabled veterans in hospitals and poppy workrooms in forty states, and the workers receive pay for each poppy made, the material being furnished free by the Department in the state in which the hospital is located.”

“The more than 25,000,000 poppies made by disabled veterans are distributed on the streets under the supervision of the American Legion Auxiliary, by approximately 125,000 volunteer workers who receive no compensation. More than $300,000 is paid annually to needy and disabled servicemen and servicewomen for making the poppies.”

“Proceeds amount to more than $2,000,000, every penny of which is devoted to Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation work, which includes aid to needy veterans and their families. The method of distribution varies in each Department, depending upon the nature of the demands for help.”

“Each American Legion Auxiliary Unit maintains a Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee working under a chairman, and a Children and Youth Committee with its chairman. These Unit chairmen are assisted by Department chairmen of similar committees, who, in turn, work under the guidance of a National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Chairman and a National Children and Youth Chairman.”

The public is given an opportunity each year to help in the significant work of The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, as well as an opportunity to pay tribute to all who died in service, by wearing a poppy on Poppy Day.

By wearing a red poppy, you are showing your respect for the brave men and women who perished in the fight for freedom. This year when you see someone giving out red poppies, you will know the story behind the flowers. Be sure to dig deep and give as much as possible to this wonderful, patriotic cause.

 

American Legion

American Legion in Blairsville, Georgia donates to Union County Historical Society