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To the editor:

The red poppy has been a symbol of the American Legion Auxiliary since the 1920s. The poppy is held near and dear to the hearts of our veterans and should be to all of us. During the month of May, the memorial poppy is distributed by auxiliary members, Girls Staters and other volunteers. The money donated helps provide financial assistance to veterans.

The memorial poppy is about the men and women who have and who are now serving our great country. Men and women have sacrificed and are now sacrificing so much for the United States, many their very lives, that we can live in freedom. Wearing a poppy is a way we can say thank you.

The story of the poppy begins long before the auxiliary adopted the flower as a way to help veterans. The story began during World War I, when a doctor and soldier, Lt. Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Army, found out a friend of his died in battle. McCrae wrote one of the most famous poems, “In Flanders’ Fields,” to honor those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

It was early November 1918; Moina Michael was given a copy of a magazine, and as she leafed through it she read Col. McCrae’s poem. She was greatly moved by the poem, especially the last stanza, that reads: “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.”

Moina worked to have her idea accepted by individual groups and organizations.In 1920, the American Legion accepted her concept and declared the red poppy a national memorial flower. The following year, it was adopted by the newly formed American Legion Auxiliary as its emblem of remembrance.

Some of the bloodiest battles of WWI took place in the areas of northern France and southwest Belgium known as Flanders’ Fields.

The destruction from the battles in this area reached beyond the battlefield to the towns and roads of the area and led to the demolition of buildings, roads and all plant life, leaving only mud. But the dormant poppy seeds were now exposed after the burial of the dead soldiers, and in the spirit of 1915, red poppies flourished in Flanders’ Fields, covering the newly dug graves

Like Moina Michael, the American Legion Auxiliary is determined that those who died and are still dying for our country will not be forgotten, Please, when you are offered a memorial poppy by a volunteer, accept it and wear it proudly, showing that you too care, and if you wish a small donation would be appreciated. These funds are used to help the veterans and their families.

Joan Kramer