Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Ever Ask the Question.........

Why are Red Poppies Given out on Veterans Day?
Check the info Below for the Answer.

History of the Flanders Poppies
(Red Corn Poppy)

For many years I have found myself asking what the significance of the red poppies were in relation to Veterans Day. This year that question was asked of me and I had no answer. I did vow, however, to find the story behind the symbol. What interesting information I found.

It has been noted throughout history that after a major war red poppies seemed to pop up in the battlefields and on soldiers graves. It seems that poppy seeds lay dormant in the soil and when the soil is heavily turned or dug up it causes them to sprout. The most detailed of this event took place in WWI in Flanders Field, Belgium. In the craters where bombs fell and on the mounds of rubble, poppies bloomed everywhere. The heavily churned earth and the high concentration of lime from the limestone buildings made the perfect catalyst for the poppies to grow.

Around 1920 an American, Moina Michael, was the 1st recorded incidence of a person wearing a poppy in remembrance of lives lost in WWI. Madame E. Guerin on a visit from France heard of the idea and upon returning home began to make homemade poppies and sold them to help support the children of war. This idea quickly spread around the world. The poppies are sold in many countries with proceeds benefiting many different veteran organizations.

So the next time you see someone with poppies for a donation......dig down deep and give with pride. Know you are saying thanks and helping a worthy cause.......by supporting our vets and vets around the world.

Below, find a famous poem called ‘In Flanders Field’ written by Major John McCrae who was at Flanders Field, Belgium during WWI.

In Flanders Fields

John Mc Crae

by Major John McCrae
Canadian Officer

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.

A More Detailed History of the Flanders Poppies

McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

"The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

Thanks to Mack Welford for reminding me of this great poem.

Arlington National Cemetery Website Top Banner 3

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Poppies Grow Where Soldiers Die

Notes: I have noticed that I can't find anyone selling lapel poppies on Veterans' Day for the last three decades. When I was young, I always bought one. During our high school years, one year my wife won first prize for selling the most poppies on Veterans' Day. The last one I bought was in 1976 outside the Los Angeles Times newspaper building downtown Los Angeles. What has changed?

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