May, Poppies, and Remembering Veterans

Even though I’m not in America any more, the end of May still means bright red poppies to me.

Papaveri on Flickr

Yes, these in the fields around here, but I’m talking about the ones that remind me of the sacrifices veterans have made for you and me and how many of them still suffer today even while in the “care” of our veterans’ hospitals.

Every year around Memorial Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)’s Buddy Poppy Program and the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Program distribute millions of crepe paper poppies in exchange for contributions that benefit disabled and hospitalized veterans and their families.

Wildflowers on FlickrWhere do the poppies come from?

Why, the hospitalized veterans make these nine-piece wonders in “Poppy Shops,” gaining a small wage and also some physical and mental therapy.

What is history of the paper poppy?

During World War I, ever-resilient poppies grew and thrived in the war-torn battlefields of Belgium, inspiring this poem by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae:

In Flanders Fields

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 symbol was picked up by Allied countries immediately after the war ended and paper poppies began being sold. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold French-produced poppies to benefit the children in areas of France and Belgium hit heaviest by the war.

When the Children’s League dissolved in 1922, the VFW took over the cause and two years later began the Buddy Poppy Program with veterans producing the poppies for the benefit of veterans and their families.

Friends in the wild on Flickr

As much as I love the gorgeous wild, natural poppies that surround me, I’m still nostalgic for those paper beauties and all they represent.

So if you’re in America, can you do me a favor? Please make a contribution to the VFW or American Legion Auxiliary and get yourself a poppy.

Poppy on Flickr

That way you can remember too.

22 Beans of Wisdom to “May, Poppies, and Remembering Veterans”
  1. 05.20.2008

    I always leave here feeling so many things as I page down at what I’ve missed, since you are so prolific and I……….am not… this blogging world.

    I think about the beauty in the world, all of the places I want to see, people to think about, food to eat, animals to pet, people to love, art to appreciate……thanks, Michelle.

    karen cole’s last blog post..TEXTURE

    Thank *you* Karen for visiting and for sharing this lovely comment–what a gorgeous way to start my day ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Gil

    Thanks for putting this whole Poppy thing together for me. I knew most of it but did not know about the paper poppies having nine parts and of course never memorized the famous poem. If only I could get those beautiful red poppies to grow in my yard.

    They are gorgeous flowers, aren’t they Gil? I didn’t know the whole story before either, but this year when I saw the poppies start, I knew I had to figure it all out once and for all. Glad you enjoyed it too ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. 05.20.2008

    What’s weird is… these images brought to mind not “In Flanders Fields” but:

    Dormi sepolto in un campo di grano
    non รจ la rosa non รจ il tulipano
    che ti fan veglia dall’ombra dei fossi
    ma sono mille papaveri rossi.

    Thanks for this, M. And happy (early) Memorial Day.

    Paul’s last blog post..“Always should be someone you really love…”

    Oh that’s gorgeous…thanks for that Italian connection ๐Ÿ™‚

    Happy early Memorial Day to you as well.

  4. Lovely post Michelle.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Lo Shopping: C.U.C.I.N.A.

    Thanks NYC/C gal ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. virginia

    Hello, like Paul these images brought to my mind “la guerra di Piero” by Fabrizio De Andrรจ.

    Thanks so much for the link Virginia ๐Ÿ™‚ I just love his voice.

  6. Joanne

    In Canada we have the same tradition but for Remembrance Day on Novemeber 11 (the last day of WWI) I remember that as a child in elementary school we used to stand for a minute of silence at 11 am. Happy Memorial Day

    Joanne’s last blog post..Donโ€™t get out your pitchforks and torches

    Interesting Joanne; we have Veteran’s Day on November 11 in the US, but I don’t recall poppies being as big a part of it as for Memorial Day. Thanks for the info ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. 05.20.2008

    Thats for the poppy lesson today! I didn’t know any of that. I do know I love poppies. Living in Northern California for a while, we used to see lots of them in the spring. Not many in Upstate NY though ๐Ÿ™

    My Mรฉlange’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday:Cheap Eats

    Glad you enjoyed, and at least you can enjoy the poppies through photos, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. 05.20.2008

    I see the VFW poppies every year, but it takes a girl in Italy to explain to me what they’re all about. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for that little lesson.

    Stefanie’s last blog post..More rambling about what my house looks like, plus a fun experiment to try at your next party

    Any time Stefanie ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. 05.20.2008

    I didn’t realize that the US participated in wearing poppies to remember war veterans. I wore a poppy in November when I was visiting Chicago a few years ago and someone stopped me to ask me why I was wearing one and I told him that I was Canadian and we traditionally wear poppies to remember the war veterans on November 11 (Remembrance Day). It’s very cool to see that the tradition does exist, I feel its very important to remember those who have made sacrifices for us.

    LuLu’s last blog post..Italian Footballโ€ฆmore than just a game!

    It’s so interesting that through this post we’re all learning about different but similar traditions in different countries; I’m really loving this exchange ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Sally

    We have poppy day in the UK on November 11th and they are also made by veterans. There is always a minute’s silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

    Lovely post, lovely poem and lovely link from Virginia (F. de Andre is one of my favourites).

    Glad you enjoyed the post Sally–and so happy to have some UK natives around…seems we have an awful lot of Americans around here usually (not that I’m complaining of course, but diversity is good) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. 05.20.2008

    Thanks for this beautiful reminder. As Sally says we have a different remembrance day in the UK and it is observed throughout the country in all public places with plenty of poppies on display. Coincidentally, we used to live very near one of the original poppy factories (in Richmond, UK) where the veterans from the 1st and 2nd world wars made the first paper flowers. Inevitably the Poppy Factory has now been converted into luxury flats overlooking the river, but the poppies still live on.

    amanda’s last blog post..Shameless

    We can only hope that those living in the luxury flats appreciate the history as well. You and Sally have me wondering now whether we have poppies around in November as well; I can’t honestly remember.

  12. 05.20.2008

    Great post Michelle! Thanks for the info… I had no idea.

    Sandra Ree’s last blog finition…Aimer

    Glad you enjoyed!

  13. 05.20.2008

    I too love poppies! I had a neighbor once who grew the most amazing Oriental poppies, and it always reminded me of OZ…

    sadira’s last blog post..Meme + More PIctures of the Hike With Z…

    They are just some of the loveliest flowers…Oriental poppies are especially pretty ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. 05.20.2008

    Thank you Michelle for the information you share with us. I knew most of the story behind the paper poppies but did not realize they were made by veterans. That makes them all the more special. I too feel this is something we should not forget and always make sure I locate where I can get a poppy so I can make a donation.


    Ice Tea For Me’s last blog there an artist within you?

    I’m pretty sure that when I first learned that veterans made them, they became all the more special to me. I just always remember my grandmother having a few around the house–we’d keep them year-round and then get new ones the following year ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. 05.21.2008

    I didn’t know there was a poppy day in the US until I read this! Nor did I know that Canada shared the same remembrance day as the UK. I always used to buy and wear a poppy around November 11th, and the whole family observed the minute of silence while watching the Queen and co on TV as they lay wreathes at the cenotaph in Whitehall.

    It was always a sad but moving experience, and as children we were always reminded of the brave people who laid down their lives for us.

    Now I’m in Italy I don’t really observe this tradition any more, so well done to you for doing so.

    All the best,


    Alex’s last blog post..Italy Is In – An Italian Art Project

    Sad but moving is a great description Alex. I’ve always had a particular reaction to such memorial services, so it’s nice to be able to at least bring out the story of the poppy–and I just love how we’re all finding out different but similar traditions in other countries ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Wunschdenker

    Every year, starting in May, in my small town of Bolton Landing, NY, 6th graders were given these same hand constructed paper poppies to sell. The boy and girl who raised the most money were crowned Poppy Queen and King and rode in a convertible in the Memorial Day parade wearing a silver Reynold’s wrap looking crown decorated with…..poppies….down mainstreet, through the town, stopping at the WWII memorial statue so one of the band’s trumpet players could play taps. My older sister, Carla, was Poppy Queen and recently my best friend’s son was the trumpet player who played taps. I’m happy to know it’s a time honored tradition in my town and throughout the good ol’ U.S of A. Thanks for reminding me of this.

    What an awesome tradition! Every town should have a poppy king and queen–I’m sure we all have WWII memorials all ready for the event. Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. 05.21.2008

    I didn’t know this. Thanks for educating so many of us.

    Rebecca’s last blog post..Peekaboo

    Glad you enjoyed the info Rebecca ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. 05.21.2008

    My heart is sick over the neglect of the VA hospitals and services these days.

    For me, poppies signify the wonderful movie scene in A Room with a View (in the book, the field is covered with violets).

    I will look for the paper poppies.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday – Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler

  19. 05.22.2008

    I love the poppies – in the fields as well as those sold by the veterans. I always bought one and hung it in my car. I get all sappy about them and at Memorial Day parades. Our first Memorial Day in Italy was spent at the American military cemetary in Nettuno. I was a blubbering mess of tears at the ceremony! It was so touching and beautiful.

    Valerie’s last blog post..Anniversario

    Oh I’d have been a blubbering mess too Valerie. I get so emotional watching memorials and such. Sounds wonderful.

  20. 12.29.2010

    I, too, didn’t know that the British shared the poppy tradition with the US. Interesting.

    Thanks for coming by, Louise!

  21. 05.28.2011

    Thanks for doing your part to keep this tradition in the forefront of our minds!
    ” Who kept the faith and fought the fight;The glory theirs, the duty ours.”
    ~Wallace Bruce

    Excellent, rel; thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. 05.28.2011

    Beautiful post Michelle. And fascinating info! Sadly I don’t think most Americans know any of this…

    Oh I sure hope they do…or at least will learn!



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