The Poppy on Veterans Day

By Amelia Hogue, Cosmetology junior

Edited by Linsey Watson, Veterinarian Assistant junior

What do you think of when you hear the word Poppy? Many different things come to mind. Some may think of an endearing term for grandfather; others may picture a field of multicolored flowers just outside of the city of Oz that made Dorothy from Kansas fall asleep. However, on Veterans Day, many know of the Remembrance Poppy, brilliant red in color; just how has this beautiful flower come to be connected with a day that honors those who have served in the military?

First, let us understand what Veterans Day truly is.  Originally known as “Armistice Day,” November 11th is a national holiday held on the anniversary of the end of World War I to honor United States veterans and victims of all wars. The poppy is worn on this holiday as a symbol of reverence and remembrance.  But why the poppy?

The story of the Remembrance Poppy goes way back. In the spring of 1915 shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, Belgium, Lt Col John McCrae, a Canadian doctor, was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field where it seemed that nothing but this delicate flower -- thousands of them -- had pushed their way through the barren wastelands.  It was as if each red poppy represented the body of a soldier, so many who had perished in battle. With that inspiration he wrote the popular poem “In Flanders Fields.” At first, he threw it away, but with the encouragement of his fellow soldiers, he submitted it for publication, and the rest is history.

McCrae’s poem has grown in popularity ever since. For example, this poem has been put to music and children’s choruses sing the song around the world.  In our own culture, author Charles Schultz depicted Linus reciting “In Flanders Fields” in the episode “What Have we Learned Charlie Brown?”

On Veterans Day, poppies can be worn as a pin on a shirt or coat jacket.  Many even pin them in their car to remind themselves each time they travel of the sacrifices from our brave men and women in the military.

On Memorial Day this past spring, a wall of 645,000 synthetic poppies, one poppy to represent each American killed in an international conflict since the start of World War I, were pressed against acrylic panels and placed on display at the National Mall in Washington DC.  Thousands were able to travel to see this display; the late Senator John McCain has visited a wall of poppies for support. During the Vietnam War, McCain served in the Navy until his plane was shot down; he was held prisoner and was tortured in an attempt to extract military information, but for five and a half years, McCain somehow never lost hope and remained true to our country. To John on holidays like Memorial and Veterans Day, it was important for him to show respect.

On this Veterans Day, remember that it’s not just a simple holiday associated with a day from work or school; it has a meaning. Remember to respect the fallen heroes; remember to respect those who have served; be grateful for those who currently serve.

Thank a Veteran.  Attend a parade and wave a flag.  Pay it forward. Wear a poppy, but don’t forget the actual meaning of this flower.