Following World War I, then called “the Great War,” the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy.
Following the publication of the wartime poem, “In Flanders Fields,” the red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during battle. The poem was written by Lt.-Col. John McCrae, a Canadian doctor, while he served on the front lines. He died of pneumonia near the end of the war.
On Sept. 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion.
Led by the American Legion Auxiliary, each year members of The American Legion Family distribute poppies with a request that the person receiving the flower make a donation to support the future of veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families with medical and financial needs.
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is known for its Buddy Poppy program. Before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW conducted its first poppy distribution. Shortly thereafter, the poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower of the U.S. VFW.
During its 1923 encampment, Buddy Poppies were assembled by disabled and needy veterans who would be paid for their work to provide them with
financial assistance. The next year, disabled veterans at the Buddy Poppy factory in Pittsburgh assembled VFW Buddy Poppies.
All VFW Buddy Poppies are genuine products of the work of disabled and needy veterans. Today, Buddy Poppies are still assembled by disabled and needy veterans in Veterans Health Administration hospitals.
The VFW Buddy Poppy program provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs, and partially supports the VFW National Home for Children.
Both the American Legion and VFW ask for freewill donations.
On National Poppy Day, May 28, be sure to wear a red poppy to honor the fallen and support the living who have worn our nation’s uniform.
Where to get a poppy
Several VFWs, Legions and their respective Auxiliaries will distribute poppies outside stores, gas stations and on street corners.
Here are several in our area:
VFW Post 1782 Keep/Zimmer Post – White Bear Lake
When: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 21-22
Where: Cub Foods, 1059 Meadowlands Drive in White Bear Township; Sam’s Club, 1850 Buerkle Road in White Bear Lake; and Cub Foods, 1920 Buerkle Road, White Bear Lake.
American Legion Post 168 – White Bear Lake
When: May 21
Where: Freedom Valu Center (BP), 4852 Hwy 61 N., White Bear Lake; U.S. Bank, 4700 Clark Ave., White Bear Lake; American Legion Post 168, corner of 3rd St. and Banning Ave.
Other: Poppy cards will be available at the Legion. The cards will be hung up at the Legion for all to see. Donations will be accepted.
American Legion Post 225 – Forest Lake
When: May 14-15
Where: Cub Foods, 2013 W. Broadway Ave., Forest Lake; and Walmart Supercenter, 200 12th St. SW, Forest Lake
VFW Post 724 Brooker-Edmund Post – New Brighton
When and Where: May 14-15 Holiday Stations, 201 W. County Road E2, New Brighton; May 14 Bethel Anderson Center, 2 Pine Tree Drive, Arden Hills; May 15 Beisswengers Hardware and Power Equipment, 182 Old Hwy 8 NW, New Brighton; May 21-22 Walmart Supercenter, 850 County Road E, Vadnais Heights.