Memorial Day Post: Red Poppies

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance to honor those who died in battles of all past wars in service to America. A Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) tradition is the buying and wearing of a red poppy.

The VFW organization has had the Buddy Poppy as its official flower for almost 100 years. Profits from artificial poppy sales have helped countless veterans and their widows, widowers, and orphans over the years. The poppy itself survives as a perpetual tribute to those who gave their lives for America’s freedom. That tradition is based on a poem.

This poem was written by Colonel John McCrae, a surgeon with Canada’s First Brigade Artillery. It expresses McCrae’s grief over the “row on row” of graves of soldiers who had died on Flanders’ battlefields in western Belgium and northern France, with a striking image of the bright red flowers blooming among the rows of white crosses.

The poem, “In Flanders Fields,” was reportedly first printed in the British magazine, Punch, in December 1915.


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 Colonel John McCrae


Look both ways for the reason why, in war some must die.
Mind the gaps and wonder,
“And how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?”
(“Blowin’ In the Wind” by Bob Dylan)

6 thoughts on “Memorial Day Post: Red Poppies

  1. I’ve not been able to get a Memorial Day or Veterans Day poppy for years. I’d affix them to my purse and it would end up being just a little green stem eventually.

    It always astonishes me how much one can still see the damage from WWI in the fields of Europe. I watched a mini docu series on it and what a complete clusterfuck.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. just looked into that. Doesn’t surprise me much unfortunately. I took a history class in college that was essentially based on that one PBS documentary series. what a pointless horror. My dad would have been in that if he hadn’t become a missile man for the Army.

        Liked by 1 person

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