Thursday, March 15, 2012

Veteran Flowers

No, I don't mean flowers who have had a couple of tours - I mean these little guys:

I got these in the "Flea Market" section of Manto Fev!

If you live in the U.S., chances are you've seen veterans selling these at restaurants or stores at certain times of the year.  In these parts, the men selling these flowers are typically quite elderly.  When I was a kid, they were probably WWI or WWII veterans; now, they're more than likely either Korean War or Vietnam War vets.  Because my dad was a Marine stationed in the South Pacific during WWII, we always bought a flower when we saw them being sold.  I'm sure he felt a camaraderie with these vets.

According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the "Buddy Poppy", as it's formally called, has been distributed since Memorial Day, 1922 - nearly four years after the Armistice of 1918 (WWI).  The next year, the disabled vets began assembling these flowers so that they could make some money of their own.  There was even a Buddy Poppy factory in Pittsburgh!

The whole idea of these flowers, and more specifically, the poppy, arose from a poem called "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.  It's a beautiful and moving poem he penned in 1915 - he didn't like it and threw it away, but it was retrieved by his fellow soldiers (according to tradition). According to Wikipedia, it's one of Canada's most published literary works.

As a kid and young adult, I always loved these poppies for their ephemeral qualities; as a grown woman, I still appreciate the ephemera aspect, but have also come to realize their importance on a much greater scale.  I suppose it's a concept that doesn't come easily to the young, unless they've lived it; only through loss and time can one truly fathom the horror of war and the consequences we all must pay because of it.

I was going to save this blog post and run it on Memorial Day but then I thought, why is it that we only seem to pause for our vets twice a year?  Maybe this post will serve as a reminder that there are SO many men and women who need our help, support and respect every day, not just Memorial and Veterans (Armistice) Day.  We all need to remember that.

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