Why the Red Poppy Holds Valuable Symbolism for War Veterans

Red poppy retains powerful symbolism


by Donna Teresa, Homefront Journal

In their unique beauty, flowers have accompanied us during times of happiness and great sorrow. One flower has remained a constant symbol of death, life and remembrance since World War I. The red poppy was immortalized in the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by a Canadian officer, Col. John McCrae, a physician, who was inspired by the flower.

McCrae was intrigued with the poppy, which can lay dormant in the soil for years, and its ability to reappear in great numbers.

He immediately associated it and his deep respect for his veteran patients and deceased comrades and he wrote the poem for them. Eventually, the red poppy was used as a symbol of remembrance by the British and Canadian troops, and as a fundraiser to help their disabled veterans…

The red poppy tradition made its way to America where the Veterans of Foreign Wars (http://vfwca.org) and the American Legion (http://calegion.org) have embraced the power of the flower to raise money to help veterans in need.

Today, the American Legion’s “Memorial Poppy” and the Veterans of Foreign Wars “Buddy Poppy” programs, with the help of their tireless volunteers, raise funds close to Memorial Day and Veterans Day and sometimes throughout the whole year.

For Ruby Kapsalis, veterans affairs and rehabilitation chairman of the Monterey Cypress Unit 694 of the American Legion Auxiliary, the rewards of red poppy fundraising are extraordinary.

“The American Legion and Auxiliary Poppy Program is the oldest and most widely recognized auxiliary program,” said Kapsalis. “Each year around Memorial Day, auxiliary volunteers distribute millions of bright red crepe-paper poppies in exchange for contributions to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans.
The program provides multiple benefits to the veterans and to the community. The hospitalized veterans who make the flowers are able to earn a small wage, which helps supplement their incomes and makes them feel more self-sufficient.

Physical and mental activity provides many therapeutic benefits as well. Donations are used exclusively to assist and support veterans and their families.”

According to Kapsalis, the symbol remains just as powerful today as it did many years ago.

“The poppy also reminds the community of the past sacrifices and continuing needs of our veterans,” she said. “Auxiliary members endeavor to explain the true meaning of this little flower to all those who receive it. The poppy has become a nationally known and recognized symbol of sacrifice and is worn and used by auxiliary members to honor the men and women who served and died for their country in all wars.”

Throughout the United States, you will see American Legion and VFW members selling the famous red poppies in your community; please be generous and purchase many. You will be helping our resilient veterans in their attempt to live the peaceful life they so much deserve.

They, like the red poppy, have survived courageously through battle and disability, and despite the destruction of war, the renewal of life offers another chance for them.

To our fallen, a life that was given in service of their country should never be forgotten.

Purchase a red poppy today, remember our living veterans, remember our fallen veterans, from every war every day.

Donna Teresa can be reached at [email protected]

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