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‘Legion’ of poppies honor veterans

‘Legion’ of poppies honor veterans


exeter — To many in Tulare County, poppies represent the coming of spring as the wildflower dots the foothills. And after a wet winter, there are sure to be flowers poppy up well into May.

Exeter residents will be able to find poppies later this month, but instead of looking to the hills, they can just look for ladies handing them out throughout town. The America Legion Auxiliary Unit 94 will be asking local residents to wear a poppy for Memorial Day as a symbol of the sacrifice made by our veterans.

The Legion will be taking donations for red crepe paper poppies from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 20 in front of Savemart, Bank of the Sierra, etc.

Connecting the visual image of the poppy with the sacrifice of service made by our veterans has been an important goal of the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Program since its inception in 1921.

On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, millions of red crepe paper poppies — all handmade by veterans as part of their therapeutic rehabilitation — are distributed across the country in exchange for donations that go directly to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans in local communities.

The Poppy Program raises community awareness and respect for our veterans by educating Auxiliary members and the public about the symbol of the poppy, taken from a line in the poem “In Flanders Fields.” The poem was written in 1915 on the battlefront of World War I by Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D. of Canada:

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

“Between the crosses, row on row

“That mark our place …

“… If ye break faith with us who die

“We shall not sleep,

“Though poppies grow In Flanders fields.”

Poppy Days have become a familiar tradition in almost every American community. This distribution of the bright red memorial flower to the public is one of the oldest and most widely recognized programs of the American Legion Auxiliary.

The poppy, as a memorial flower to the war dead, can be traced to a single individual, Moina Michael. She was so moved by Lt. Col. McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” that she wrote a response:

“. . . the blood of heroes never dies

“But lends a luster to the red

“Of the flower that blooms above the dead

“In Flanders’ Fields.”

On impulse, Michael bought a bouquet of poppies — all that New York City’s Wanamaker’s Department Store had — and handed them to businessmen meeting at the New York YMCA where she worked. She asked them to wear the poppy as a tribute to the fallen. That was November 1918. World War I was over, but America’s sons would rest forever “in Flanders’ Fields.” Later she would spearhead a campaign that would result in the adoption of the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice.

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