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The Red Poppy

On this Memorial Day, 2021, I would like to once again share with you The Red Poppy and the words of authors John McRae and Moina Michael in tribute to all veterans and in remembrance of those who didn't come home.


            When you see red poppies this Memorial Day, remember that many Veteran's organizations provide the flowers for you to wear proudly; perhaps in return for a donation to their worthy group.

            The story of the significance of the poppy comes from a poem written in 1915 by Lt. Col. John McRae during World War I.  McRae wrote the poem sitting at the back of an ambulance, one day after a close friend and former student was killed by an enemy artillery shell. 

            In the decimated fields of battle, and after the chaos was over, one of the plants that began to grow in clusters was the red field poppy.  It is an annual plant that flowers every year and the seeds are disseminated in the wind.  The seeds can lie dormant in the ground for a long time before coming back to life.

            This was the inspiration for his words 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.


            In 1918 Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war.  She later penned a response to Flanders Fields.  Her words are fitting:


Oh! You who sleep in Flanders' Fields 
Sleep sweet - to rise anew; 
We caught the torch you threw, 
And holding high we kept 
The faith with those 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 luster to the red 
On the flower that blooms above the dead 
In Flanders' fields.


And now the torch and Poppy red 
Wear in honor of our dead. 
Fear not that ye have died for naught: 
We've learned the lesson that ye taught 
In Flanders' fields.


            Wear your poppy with pride this Memorial Day.






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