The Poppy Story
From the battlefields of World War I, weary soldiers brought home the memory of a barren landscape
transformed by wild poppies, red as the blood that had soaked the soil. By that miracle of nature, the
spirit of their lost comrades lived on.
The poppy became a symbol of the sacrifice of lives in war, and represented the hope that none had
died in vain. The American Legion Auxiliary Poppy has continued to bloom for the casualties of four wars,
its petals of paper bound together for veterans by veterans, reminding America each year that the men
and women who have served and died for their country deserve to be remembered.
Poppy Day has 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.
This poppy, as a memorial flower to the war dead, can be traced to a single individual, Miss Moina Michael.
She was so moved by Col. McCrae's poem that she wrote a response:
. . . the blood of heroes never dies
but lends a luster to the red
of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
On impulse, she bought a bouquet of poppies - all that New York City's Wanamaker's Department Store
had - and handed them to businessmen meeting at the New York YMCA where she worked. She asked
them to wear the poppy as a tribute to the fallen. That was November 1918. World War I was over, but
America's sons would rest forever "in Flanders Fields." Later, she would spearhead a campaign that
would result in the adoption of the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice.
In Flanders 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.
Symbolism of the Poppy
The red petals stand for the vast outpouring of blood; the yellow and black center, the mud and
desolation of all battlefields.
The green of the stem is symbolic of the forests, meadows and fields where generations of
Americans have perished to make this land free.
The stem represents the courage and determination of our fallen warriors.
The assembled product, a flower, is a symbol of resurrection, which is sure to follow.