My Pop must have had deep pockets because whether he was dressed in his everyday gray work clothes or his Sunday best, he always had change for an ice cream cone or to buy tickets to a school cakewalk or ice cream social (even if it wasn't a school his grandkids attended) or to buy an American Legion poppy.
Pop, my grandfather, was a Navy veteran of World War I. He was also a staunch patriot, always ready to support his country and any member of the Armed Forces.
Here's a little history on what the poppies mean and why they are sold:
"After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. The red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during battle following the publication of the wartime poem “In Flanders Fields.” The poem was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D. while serving on the front lines.
On September 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion.
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 poppies are made by disabled veterans too."
Fast forward to the present and I am now a proud to be a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, #163. I will join in offering poppies on Friday, November 20 at Orscheln in Neosho from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. This will be my second time offering poppies and if you want to see me and say hi, come by from noon until 2 p.m.
If not, if you see me, I'll be sporting a poppy and often I have one tied to my purse for weeks or months to come.
Buying a poppy supports our veterans and serves to remind us all to remember.
Here's the poem penned by John McCrae that helped inspire this long time tradition:
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.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the editor of The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a writer and author. Many of her novels have a military hero.