“We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.” Francis A. Walker
Did you know that the red poppy flower is the traditional flower for Memorial Day? Do you know the interesting story of how it came about? It began with a poem and one woman’s pledge to not forget the lives that mattered.
In a 1915 poem titled, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s, he writes about the ultimate sacrifice made by those fighting for America in World War 1. An American teacher, Moina Belle Michael read his poem and it became her inspiration for the idea of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy. Then, in 1918, Moina wrote a poem called, “We Shall Keep the Faith.” It was written in response to the words Lieutenant McCrae penned in his poem, calling on America to catch the torch tossed by those who died in the first world war. Moina took her inspiration one step further by pledging to not forget our soldier’s sacrifice, to honor their service and to remember them–for each one mattered. And to keep the faith. Because of Moina’s dedication the red poppy also serves as the symbol for war veterans.
Soon after, disabled veterans made poppies out of silk to raise funds for rehabilitating veterans and to provide assistance for their families. Thus, the red poppy became the symbol for supporting our veterans. This practice continues today. The veterans of the American Legion make crepe poppies. The money raised from the sale goes to the rehabilitation of disabled and hospitalized veterans in communities across our nation.
Moina Michael’s unique story for how the red poppy became the symbol of remembrance is told in her 1941 book, The Miracle Flower – The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy.
Oh! You who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
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,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We were in honor our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
-From the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Belle Michael
So, how can we make this Memorial Day more meaningful, more significant? Wear a red poppy! If someone comments on it, then you can share the story of Moina Michael and how her efforts to keep the torch going for 99 years has made a difference in the lives of our veterans and those left behind by the fallen.
Keep the faith,