National Poppy Day is the Friday before Memorial Day
The American Legion Family recognizes the importance of honoring the fallen and supporting the living who have worn our nation’s uniform. That is why The American Legion Family called upon Congress to designate the Friday before Memorial Day as National Poppy Day.
After World War I, the poppy flourished
in Europe and quickly became a symbol of
the sacrifices made by Americans and allied
servicemembers around the world. Soldiers
returning from WWI brought home the flowers
in memory of the barren landscape transformed
by the sudden growth of wild red poppies among
the newly dug graves — unforgettably described
in a memorial poem by Canadian Lt. Col. John
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
National Poppy Day broadens a tradition that
dates back to the American Legion Auxiliary’s
first National Convention in the early 1920s when
the red poppy was adopted as The American
Today, it remains an iconic symbol of honor for the sacrifice of our
veterans. ALA members distribute millions of
poppies annually across the country in exchange
for donations that go directly to assist disabled and
hospitalized veterans in our communities.
Poppy Days have become a familiar tradition in almost every American community. This distribution of the bright red memorial flower to the public is one of the oldest and most widely recognized programs of the American Legion Auxiliary.View Poppy Poster Contest Winners
From the battlefields of World War I, weary soldiers brought home the memory of a barren landscape transformed by wild poppies, red as the blood that had soaked the soil. By that miracle of nature, the spirit of their lost comrades lived on.
The poppy became a symbol of the sacrifice of lives in war and represented the hope that none had died in vain. The American Legion Auxiliary poppy has continued to bloom for the casualties of four wars, its petals of paper bound together for veterans by veterans, reminding America each year that the men and women who have served and died for their country deserve to be remembered.
The poppy, as a memorial flower to the war dead, can be traced to a single individual, Moina Michael. She was so moved by Lt. Col. McCrae's poem, "In Flanders Fields," that she wrote a response:
. . . the blood of heroes never dies But lends a luster to the red Of the flower that blooms above the dead In Flanders' Fields. On impulse, she bought a bouquet of poppies – all that New York City's Wanamaker's Department Store had – and handed them to businessmen meeting at the New York YMCA where she worked. She asked them to wear the poppy as a tribute to the fallen. That was November 1918. World War I was over, but America's sons would rest forever "in Flanders' Fields." Later she would spearhead a campaign that would result in the adoption of the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice.
"In Flanders Fields" is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lt. Col. John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died during the Second Battle of Ypres.
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.
–Lt. Col. John McCrae
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