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Celebrate Veterans Day and Remember with a Poppy at the National World War I Museum

Celebrate Veterans Day Kansas City

Remember with a Poppy

It’s a common sight on Veterans Day and Memorial Day: paper and cloth poppies being distributed by veteran’s organizations for donations. But you may be asking yourself how the tradition started. We need only look back to World War I for the origins of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian physician, served as a surgeon at a field hospital in Belgium during the war. Working in view of poppies blooming across the old battlefields and fresh graves, he wrote the Great War’s most famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” as a testament those who lost their lives.

 

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.

 

In 1918 near the end of the war, McCrae died of illness. Upon hearing of his death, American Moina Michael, an educator who look a leave of absence from the University of Georgia to volunteer with the YMCA in New York, vowed to always wear the red poppy, giving rise to the use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

She made the first sales of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy at a YMCA conference in November 1918. From that point forward, it was her mission to make the poppy the national memorial symbol and inspire the world to return to peace after the “war to end all wars.” Over time, wearing poppies became popular in many countries as a symbol of respect for those who served in World War I and the conflicts to follow.

This Veterans Day Weekend, you can join the National World War I Museum and Memorial in honoring all veterans, not just those from the First World War. All weekend, the Museum offers free admission for veterans and active duty military personnel, as well as half-price admission for the general public. Family-friendly activities include inspecting a Vietnam-era “Huey” Helicopter on the Museum grounds, Hands-On History activities where kids of all ages are invited to handle Great War artifacts, and free research stations which allow you to “Find Your Connection to WWI.”

Learn more at theworldwar.org/veteransday.