When I was a little girl, I remember shopping in downtown Conway, AR with my Mom. Along the streets in May were what I remember to be old men and women selling small red paper flowers that looked like poppies. Momma would always purchase 4 poppies, pinning one on me and then one on her. (The other two were for my brother and Dad.) I remember wearing the poppy proudly to school and church throughout May, not really understanding what it meant. Mom said money for the poppies would help military veterans and should be worn to remember the military men and women who died in war. The little red poppy made me fell patriotic and proud. It is a very fond memory.
So where did the ‘red poppy’ idea come from? Moina Belle Michael (1869 – 1944) was an American teacher from Georgia who was inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Colonel John McCrae. The poem became her inspiration for the red field poppy to become an internationally-recognized symbol of remembrance and welfare for veterans.
Moina began a tireless campaign at her own expense, starting with a letter to her congressman in December 1918. In the letter she asked him to put the idea to the War Department, which he immediately did. She wanted to act swiftly so that this new national emblem might be produced in the form of pins, on postcards and so on in time for the signing of the peace treaty at Versailles in June 1919.
Today, you don’t see many red field poppies being sold. This should not prevent us from remembering all of the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. On Monday, May 30th at 3:00 pm the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” calls us to stop and remember. This Act was signed by President Bill Clinton designating 3:00 p.m. local time each Memorial Day as the National Moment of Remembrance to honor the men and women of the United States who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace.
As you enjoy this Memorial Day, I encourage you to stop at 3:00 pm and remember our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.
Read more about the little red poppy that became a symbol around the world for remembering veterans in Moina Michaels’ book The Miracle Flower, The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy.
In Flanders Fields
By Col. John McCrae
Written December 8, 1915
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.