Legion ready for Poppy Day

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


As they have for many years, volunteers of the American Legion Auxiliary will be standing outside local businesses in Washington this Friday, offering a symbolic red poppy to those who pass by.

Susan Gilmere, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary with 38 years of service, is helping to organize the annual event. She wants the community to understand something important about Poppy Day.

?The poppies are not for sale. We distribute the poppies. We collect donations for veterans,? she said.

Nationally, the American Legion Auxiliary raises more that $5.5 million each year through the distribution of the red paper poppies. The money supports active duty military, veterans and their families.

The red poppies are nationally recognized symbols of sacrifice worn by Americans since World War I to honor those who have served our country in all wars. Veterans and volunteers handcraft the poppies, which have been distributed nationally since 1920.

Congress designated the Friday before Memorial Day as National Poppy Day. Although Memorial Day dates from the Civil War, the poppies are a reminder of World War I, especially the fields in France and Flanders where they grow in large numbers.

It was the sight of poppies growing in the graveyards between the white crosses that inspired the famous poem ?In Flanders Fields? by John McCrae.

Washington volunteers will station themselves outside local grocery stores and other venues of opportunity to collect donations as they distribute the small red flowers.

The project involves a lot of work, but Gilmere is ready for it.

?There are so many things that need to be done in May for Memorial Day. There are flags and flowers to be placed at the cemeteries and the poppy distribution falls on the week before Memorial Day,? she said.

She said the organization stocks 2,500 to 3,000 poppies for the day. The organization might not distribute all of them, depending on the weather and other variables.

According to the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters, 100 percent of the donations go toward the support of veterans.