While looking through some old files, I came upon the May, 2017 edition of our VFW Magazine. Gracing the cover was the very lovely Hollywood actress, Doris Day, who recently passed on at the age of 97. The photo was from the year 1950 during the years that Hollywood stars glamorized the Buddy Poppy Program. That photo prompted me to do a little research and put this article together.
When the first shots of World War I were fired in the summer of 1914, Canada, as a member of the British Empire became involved in the war. In April of 2015 Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was stationed in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium in an area known as Flanders.
During the bloody second battle of Ypres, in the midst of the warfare, McCrae’s friend, 22-year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmen was killed by artillery fire and buried in a makeshift grave.
The following day McCrae, after seeing the field of makeshift graves blowing with wild poppies wrote what would become the most famous war poem ever written. Here it is word for word as he wrote it:
IN FLANDER’S FIELD
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.
The poppy soon became the flower of remembrance for the men and women in Britain, France, The United States and Canada who have died in service to their country. McCrae’s poem continues to be an important part of Remembrance Day Celebrations in Canada and Europe as well as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day in the United States.
Our VFW Post 7310 conducts poppy sales annually. Profits from these sales continue to increase each year. These profits are used exclusively:
l. For the aid, assistance, relief and comfort of needy or disabled veterans or members of the Armed Forces and their dependents and the widows and orphans of deceased veterans.
2. For the maintenance and expansion of the VFW National Home and other facilities devoted exclusively to the benefit and welfare of the dependents, widows, and orphans of disabled, needy or deceased veterans or members of the Armed Forces.
3. For necessary expenses in providing entertainment, care and assistance to hospitalized veterans or members of the Armed Forces.
4. For veteran’s rehabilitation welfare and service work.
5. To perpetuate the memory of deceased veterans and members of the Armed Forces and to comfort survivors.
From its inception, the Buddy Poppy Program has helped the VFW live up to its motto, “to honor the dead by helping the living.” The Buddy Poppy – small red flower symbolic of the blood shed in World War I by millions of Allied Soldiers in defense of freedom – was originally sold to provide relief for the people of war-devastated France. Later, its sale directly benefited thousands of disabled and down-and-out American Veterans.