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…
– John McCrae
By Traci Chapman
It was 1915, and World War I raged. Major John McCrae was a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, a man who had seen battle and death, but a man who would be haunted by one death in particular.
That death happened May 2, 1915. A former student of McCrae’s at Quebec’s McGill University, Lt. Alexis Helmer died from a shell burst. With no chaplain there, the surgeon performed a funeral for his friend and one-time student, on a warm day in Belgium. There, among the death, red poppies began to grow – a sight that moved McCrae to recognize not only Helmer, but all of the fallen.
He did that with “In Flanders Fields.”
The poem would become synonymous with sacrifice in battle; ironically, McCrae himself would lose his life in the “Great War,” dying of pneumonia in January 1918 while still serving in France. He left behind, however, words that called to others through the decades, phrases that would help spur a special way of remembering the sacrifice of those who died to protect American freedom.
That remembrance comes each May, with National Poppy Day. This year held May 25, Mustang American Legion members will – as they do each year – offer poppies to the community, asking that those symbols serve as a reminder of those who never returned home.
“This is an important fundraiser for us, as it helps us complete our other community project, but it’s also so important in and of itself, because we must always remember what these individuals have done for each and every one of use,” Post 353’s John Bishop said. “We want to make sure that everyone – particularly our younger generations – know about the poppy and what it really means.”
American Legion posts across the country take part in the annual effort, something that began in 1942, when its auxiliary in 1942 first started annual poppy fundraising drives. Legionnaires designated the poppy its official memorial flower in 1920.
Post 353 members will be on hand Saturday, May 26, at Mustang Walmart to conduct their annual poppy fundraiser. The symbolic poppies are free of charge, but donations are always welcome.