A simple gesture

Published 9:54 pm Friday, May 22, 2009

By Staff
This simple, yet meaningful, gesture can help honor America’s war dead and help wounded — physically and mentally — veterans recover from their wounds: Make a donation to the American Legion Auxiliary and receive a handmade poppy Saturday.
In 1921, the American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as its memorial flower. Why the poppy?
Across the battlefields in Belgium during World War 1, poppies grew wild. The disturbed soils of the landscape, torn asunder by warfare, provided cover for poppy seeds, allowing them to grow and become symbols.
Most of us know the poem “In Flanders Fields,” or at least its opening lines. The poem follows:
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 piece was written by Lt. Col. John McRae, who served with the Canadian Army during World War 1.
Nearly 100 years after the “war to end all wars,” the poppy provides physical and psychological therapy and financial help to the hospitalized and disabled veterans who make the nine-piece poppies at Poppy Shops sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. The veterans receive a small amount of money for each poppy they make. According to the American Legion Auxiliary Web Site, that money is the only income for some veterans.
The poppies are never sold, but given in exchange for donations.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, poppies will be available in Washington at Dollar General, the Piggly Wiggly at Washington Square Mall and the Food Lion next to Kerr Drug.
The small, monetary sacrifices made to obtain those poppies can never compare to the sacrifices made by still-living veterans and the ultimate sacrifice made by America’s war dead.
It’s a growing debt than can never be repaid, but it must be honored year by year, generation by generation.