Poppy brings back memories, reminds to honor servicemembers

It’s interesting how a certain event, sound, or image can trigger the senses to a time long forgotten.

A light floral smell can spark memories of Mom dabbing on her favorite perfume. A pounding rain brings back the days of living on the farm under a tin roof. And a red poppy, with its white paper label that honors veterans and military – especially those who died on the battlefront – reminds Americans to keep alive the memories of those who served.

The American Legion Auxiliary, a century-old veteran support organization consisting of the direct descendants and spouses of the military service from veterans and American Legion members, receives stories year-round from people who share their fond memories of the poppy. From distributing the flowers alongside their grandmothers in exchange for donations, to being on the receiving end and proudly wearing the poppy after making a donation, the fond memories always come back.

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“We love it when people contact us about how the poppy has resonated with them,” said Nicole Clapp, American Legion Auxiliary national president. “And though they sometimes tell us sad stories about their fallen servicemember, the poppy seems to bring comfort by tying together the pride of their loved one’s military service, and the honor and distinction the flower inspires.”

Today’s poppy distributions during social distancing

Before COVID-19, the poppy was a physical reminder, a flower handed out by a volunteer to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice. And now, during the days of quarantine and uncertainty, volunteers of veteran support organizations have to get creative in their poppy distribution days.

The national headquarters of both the American Legion Auxiliary and The American Legion, for example, released a joint statement encouraging local volunteers to forge ahead with distributions in their communities while heeding local officials’ directives on social distancing. The two organizations provided ideas like drive-by distributions at Legion post homes and the consideration of hosting a beefed-up poppy event later in the year after restrictions are lifted.

Social media will be a major promotional tool this year for both the Auxiliary and Legion:

Attend the virtual National Poppy Day® event via the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters’ Facebook watch party on May 22 at noon EDT. Leadership from The American Legion Family will talk about the poppy’s significance, its place in history, and its relevance today. Visit Facebook.com/alaforveterans for more information.

Add to a worldwide virtual poppy garden on Instagram by posting poppy images and using the hashtag #poppyday.

To learn more about poppies and the upcoming National Poppy Day, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org/poppy.

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