The American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary have regarded the red poppy as the official flower of remembrance for the nation’s war dead for 100 years.
Inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, The American Legion designated the symbolic flower by a resolution passed at its second national convention in 1920. The American Legion Auxiliary followed with a similar resolution at its first national convention in 1921.
The movement – popularized by New York professor Moina Michael immediately after the armistice that ended World War I in 1918 – would provide tens of millions of dollars to help disabled veterans, military personnel and their families over the next century.
National Poppy Day is May 22 this year, and an American Legion-American Legion Auxiliary web platform is available again – mindful of limitations that may be caused by the coronavirus pandemic – at www.legion.org/poppyday. The platform offers easy access to the American Legion Emblem Sales Poppy Store online and an invitation to participate in a national Instagram campaign to collect images of poppies to share with a national audience.
The site also offers guidance about how to participate in the May tradition of poppy distribution, opportunities to raise funds to help disabled veterans and learn history of the phenomenon and videos of American Legion Past National Commanders John P. “Jake” Comer and Denise M. Rohan reciting the inspirational poems, “In Flanders Fields” by McCrae and “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Michael.
The materials are meant to be shared, in the spirit of the original American Legion resolution, which was called “a symbol to perpetually remind us, and to unfailingly teach coming generations the value of the ‘Light of Liberty’ and our debt to those who helped to save it for us by paying the supreme sacrifice, and that we may not forget that:
In Flanders Fields, the poppies grow
Among the crosses – row on row.”