HURON — The American Legion Auxiliary poppy has continued to bloom for the casualties of wars since it was adopted as the American Legion memorial flower nearly 100 years ago.
Its petals of paper are bound together for veterans by veterans, reminding America each year that the men and women who have served and died for this country deserve to be remembered.
Both veterans groups and Auxiliaries in Huron will be accepting donations in exchange for bright red poppies that people are encouraged to wear on National Poppy Day, which is Friday, May 25, to honor those who have served. National Poppy Day is always held the Friday before Memorial Day.
Members of the American Legion and Auxiliary will be offering poppies at various businesses and locations on Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12; and the VFW and Auxiliary will offer Buddy Poppies the following weekend, Friday, May 25, and Saturday, May 26.
Everything that is collected from poppies is spent on the veterans.
The VFW treated residents of the CLC at the Sioux Falls VA to a Red Lobster luncheon, and meat,cheese and fruit trays were brought to them for Super Bowl Sunday.
Local evidence of the poppy money can be found at the South Dakota State Fair, where both the VFW and American Legion sponsor rides on golf carts for visitors.
Last year, American Legion Auxiliary members raised more than $5 million from poppy donations, 100 percent of which was used exclusively to support active-duty military, veterans, and their families through the Auxiliary’s outreach program services.
Millions of poppies annually are distributed across the country in exchange for donations that go directly to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans.
The poppy was memorialized by Lt. Col. John McCrae, when he wrote the poem, “In Flanders Field,” about the barren landscape of the battlefields of World War I that were transformed by wild red poppies. In the sight of those poppies, the spirit of 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.
Moina Michael of New York City was so moved when she first read “In Flanders Field,” that she bought a bouquet of poppies and handed them out to businessmen.
She asked them to wear the poppy as a tribute to the fallen.
That was in 1918, and in 1920, the red poppy was officially adopted as the American Legion memorial flower.
Veterans handcraft the flowers with assistance from unpaid volunteers. The veterans not only earn a small wage, which helps to supplement their incomes and makes them feel more self-sufficient, but the physical and mental activity provides many therapeutic benefits for the veteran.
A veteran who devotes five to six hours per day assembling the red crepe paper poppies can make as many as 2,000 to 3,000 poppies in a week.
Mayor Paul Aylwood signs a proclamation for Poppy Days in Huron on May 11-12 for the American Legion and on May 25-26 for the VFW Buddy Poppy. With Aylwood are Sandra Mencke, left, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, and Leanne Voorhees, president of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.