Thanksgiving is a day when we pause to give thanks for the things we have.
Memorial Day is a day when we pause to give thanks to the people who fought for the things we have.
I wanted a VW Bug for years. They are round and compact and tweak memories of my teen years. One month before my Father died at the age of 93 he bought me a VW Bug: Brand new, white with a beige interior and a little plastic vase to hold a flower right next to the steering wheel.
My Father was a World War II veteran. Every year he would buy red poppies from The Veteran of Foreign Wars and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers who gave them out for contributions for disabled and hospitalized veterans and their families.
I hadn’t seen or thought about poppies in years until 2 months after Dad died. Outside the grocery store an elderly man was selling poppies. I gave him a donation and received a poppy. Since then it has shared space in the little plastic vase in the Bug my Dad gave me.
A brief history of the artificial poppy
In the World War I battlefields of Belgium, poppies grew wild. The overturned soils of battle enabled the poppy seeds to be covered, allowing them to grow and to forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed during that and future wars. The poppy movement was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” written in 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian forces in 1915 before the United States entered World War I
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.
By 1918 the poem was well known throughout the allied world. Moina Michael, an American woman, wrote these lines in reply.
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
She then adopted the custom of wearing a red poppy in memory of the sacrifices of war and also as a symbol of keeping the faith.
The poppy became a nationally known and recognized symbol of sacrifice and is worn to honor the men and women who served and died for their country in all wars.
Here’s to you Dad! Thanks for fighting for us,
all your life.