Those of us 50 and older are pretty familiar with the annual poppy fundraiser, the significance of the poppy, and how it relates to World War I.
For decades, we made a donation in May, tying in with Memorial Day weekend, and often wrapped the artificial flower around our rearview mirror until replacing it with a new one the next year.
And it was evident in Marion last weekend, the vast majority of Americans are clueless as to why veterans groups solicit donations from the general public and hand out the red flower when a contribution is received.
In fact, a large number of donors refused the poppy altogether, not understanding that they were being disrespectful by not accepting one.
As explained on the American Legion Auxiliary website, the red poppy is a nationally recognized symbol of sacrifice worn by Americans since World War I to honor those who served and died for our country in all wars.
From the battlefields of World War I, weary soldiers brought home the memory of a barren landscape transformed by wild poppies, red as the blood that had soaked the soil. By that miracle of nature, the spirit of lost comrades lived on.
Lt. Col. John McCrae, a member of the Canadian contingent during World War I, died in France on Jan. 28, 1918 after four years of service on the western front. A poem he penned, "In Flanders Fields," left a lasting impression with thousands. It reads as 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 bfailing 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."
Although fundraising has already begun, May 25 is the official National Poppy Day. Plain and simple, monies raised from donors help American veterans.
Daniel Fruge of Marion, a Vietnam War veteran, said the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) takes proceeds raised to finance programs at the VA Medical Center, for example. They may also benefit active-duty military or be used to help homeless vets.
"There are so many worthy causes here in Marion. There's not any one to me that's more important than the other," he said.
So, if you are approached in the days ahead by a veterans group, you may want to dig deep into that pocketbook and make a nice contribution on behalf of our American soldiers. After all, they have given much to our great nation. You may also want to accept that poppy in return and remember its significance.