Poppies are America’s flower for remembering those who died in war.
The National American Legion voted to make the poppy the official emblem of remembrance in 1920. This followed the effort of Moina Michael who had been raising money for veterans by selling fabric made poppies. She had read John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Field in the Ladies Home Journal.
McCrae was a Canadian surgeon in northern Belgium in 1915 and was struck by the sight of red flowers blooming on war torn fields. The Germans had used chlorine gas for the first time and 87,000 Allied soldiers died or were wounded and 37,000 German soldiers were killed. He wrote a poem that was first printed in Punch magazine from the perspective of the soldiers that had died. This poem became very popular and was used at numerous memorial services. McCrae died in 1918 from meningitis and pneumonia.
Moina Michael was a college professor in Georgia, but she took a leave of absence to work with the YWCA. After reading In Flanders Field, she wrote her own poem We Shall Keep the Faith and the idea of selling fabric created poppies to help veterans was born. She then was able to convince the Georgia American Legion members to adopt the flower and the idea flourished to become the national emblem.
In Europe, a Frenchwoman named Anna Guerin supported the idea of selling poppies and began a campaign in France. The idea spread to England and other countries. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand joined the people of European countries in wearing poppies on November 11, Armistice Day.
I don’t know when I stopped seeing poppies worn on Memorial Day, but I remember them being sold and worn when I was a little girl. My poppies aren’t red, but I remember. I remember my classmates who died in Vietnam. My mother remembered those who died in WWII. Her parents remembered those who died in WWI. Will a time come when there is no war? I can only pray.