By Marsha M. Brown
During this past Memorial Day weekend you may have taken the time to stop at an American Legion booth or table and offer a donation which in turn generated a gift back to you of an artificial flower…a red poppy. If you did, thank you.
For those of you who took the time and interest to stop by and give…it was deeply appreciated. And for those of you who had children or grandchildren with you when you stopped by, well…you taught your children respect for our armed forces and their historical sacrifice. You reminded your little one that our freedoms weren’t free. As a guardian of that little boy or girl, you did a good thing. And hopefully you walked away from that fold up table explaining that the little artificial red flower represented fallen soldiers who died fighting a battle.
According to information provided by the American Legion Auxiliary Media Fact Sheet, “In 1923, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion Family in memory of the soldiers who fought on the battlefields during World War I”. It goes on to describe in part the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D. as “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row…” that says it all.
If you were one of the folks who ran past the table like the heels of your shoes were on fire, or turned your head to avoid eye contact with the fella sitting at the table, you may want to consider the opportunity to do a good thing a little more carefully next time. This annual and honorable event may not impress everyone in the way it’s meant to. Some people may tire of being greeted by a man sitting at a table or booth at the entrance to a business wearing his rectangle hat and vest collecting donations; some people may even go way out of their way to avoid the encounter; some may think it’s bothersome or that its begging or even annoying…but let me tell you from a different perspective what it reallyis.
First of all, the flowers are not sold, they are offered as a gift in appreciation for a donation to the American Legion and the flowers are crafted by wounded or disabled Veterans and…they’re made in America. The men who sit or stand at that table for hours each year do it out of love and respect for their fellow comrades and they greatly appreciate your taking the time to acknowledge sacrifices of Veterans because they too are Veterans themselves.
Until this past year and even with all the respect and admiration I’ve had all my life for our military, I had never quite appreciated the idea behind the little red poppy flower that I have come to recently.
What men of all ages accomplish at this special time of year is far more reaching than guarding a jug of money and rewarding the ‘giver’ with a little flower. But rather, it symbolizes the memory of the soldiers who lost their life fighting a war for us. It represents history…our history. It symbolizes acknowledgment of the fallen, the honorable and a heck of a lot of courage.
For anyone who missed an opportunity to do a good thing and help the American Legion this past weekend? My best recommendation is to consider embracing the next chance that’s presented to you.
My sweet Billy was one of the beautiful men dedicated to the American Legion who greeted you; he was just one of many across Dare County, North Carolina and the United States. It meant a lot when you walked up to him and said “thank you” seeing that he was a Veteran. It warmed his heart that little ones who got the little red flower seemed to appreciate it. It made him smile that so many men and women stopped by and contributed. He was happy that a bank employee said they’d been discussing it at her office and a Sunday school teacher said she wanted to teach her class the meaning behind the poppy.
During the late morning on Memorial Day, I rode through the Town of Manteo. Folks were gathering at the old courthouse site only minutes from the start of the annual Memorial Day service. I saw ladies from the American Legion Auxiliary whom I had just recently met when I joined. Then, as I made my way back home past the Manteo Cemetery there were more American Legion folks everywhere! And I quickly saw what they, along with the Boy Scouts, were doing. They were putting sizable American flags on graves of Veterans. It was kind of sad but truly beautiful.
I asked one of the Boy Scouts if I could have one to put on my father’s grave who was also a Veteran. Being very gracious he passed me a flag through the car window then I rode to the side of the cemetery and got out of my car where my precious fathers remains lay.
In the moments I walked toward the tombstone reading MANN, flashbacks of him in his crisp white U.S. Coast Guard uniform came before me and I missed him even more. My eyes filled with salty water and I just stared at his name. I was proud. I looked back across my shoulder and watched men and preteen boys making their way from one grave to another placing the glorious sticks of honor into the ground or a flower pot and I smiled. It was nice. It was a really special day. I was proud that my Daddy had served our nation and my husband too. I was glad to be an American who appreciated the red, white and blue and the stars and stripes forever.
Please don’t forget the FREE CONCERT this coming Friday, June 8th – 7PM at Manteo First Assembly of God Church. We’ll not only be entertained but we’ll also have a chance to celebrate the Veterans who are present. Please take the time to come! Bring your whole family and feel good about who you are, where you live and what this thing called America is all about. Remember to write to me at email@example.com . In the meantime, be happy, be proud and stay tuned…