Poppies of Memorial Day

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Discover the significance of Memorial Day poppies and how they honor veterans. Learn about the tradition and the story behind these red flowers.

Veterans Memorial Wall with Poppies

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Memorial Day Poppies

Have you seen them? Memorial Day poppies? Or veterans handing out single red flowers in public places near Memorial Day?

I have … we all have, I would imagine.

For me, it’s been too long since I’ve seen those colorful pins of Memorial Day. But I remember them… the veterans and their red flowers. From childhood memories of too long ago. Of portable tables near grocery markets and older veterans and their rows of little red Memorial Day poppies. 

It’s a little sad when I stop and think about those veterans of long ago, sitting behind those tables, patiently waiting for someone to remember.

My grandparents happily pinned those little red Memorial Day poppies on their lapels. In those days of carefree childhood, I’m sure I asked endless questions about those poppies, but as the years have passed, the memory of why those poppies were handed out has dimmed.

The Poem That Inspired Memorial Day Poppies

The following poem was penned by World War I Colonel John McCrae, a Canada’s First Brigade Artillery surgeon. It expressed McCrae’s grief over the “row on row” of soldiers’ graves who had died on Flanders’ battlefields, located in a region of western Belgium and northern France. The poem presented a striking image of the bright red flowers blooming among the rows of white crosses… and became a rallying cry to all who fought in the First World War.

The first printed version of the poem was reportedly in December 1915 in the British magazine Punch.

McCrae’s poem greatly impacted two women, Anna E. Guerin of France and Georgia native Moina Michael. Both worked hard to initiate the sale of artificial poppies to help orphans and others left destitute by the war. By the time Guerin established the first sale in the U.S. in 1920, with the help of The American Legion, the poppy was well known in the allied countries — America, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — as the “Flower of Remembrance.”

Proceeds from that first sale went to the American and French Children’s League.

In Flanders Fields

By John McCrae

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.

The “Buddy” Memorial Day Poppies

This Memorial Day, the VFW is sharing the impact of the VFW “Buddy Poppy” in honor of the servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

YouTube video

Finding Memorial Day Heros

“Those who say we are in a time where there is no heroes… they just don’t know where to look.”

Ronald Reagan
YouTube video


  1. Bonjour Steff. I very much appreciated your inclusion of what we Canadians
    consider to be an almost holy poem by a Canadian doctor of the First World
    War. Many thanks. The foto at the top of your article is beautiful . Regards,
    Oscar Schneider in far away Quebec.

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