National Cemetery, Beaufort, SC (Source)

We mark Memorial Day and honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The tradition started in various places following the Civil War. After World War I the day began to honor those who have died in all American wars. Memorial Day was declared a national holiday in 1971.

Wearing poppies to honor America’s war dead has been a tradition on Memorial Day. Why?

National Cemetery, Raleigh, NC (Source)

In battlefields the red poppy was one of the first plants to grow. Poppy seeds need light, they can be dormant for decades without blooming. Once soil is disturbed, as it was in vicious World War 1 battles, poppies bloomed.

National Cemetery, Florence, SC (Source)

Wearing poppies was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian soldier John McCrae. He was a poet, physician, author, artist, and soldier during World War I and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915. McCrae saw the poppies during burials around his artillery position. In January, 1918, while still commanding a general hospital McCrae died of pneumonia. (Source)

The sentiments of the poem reflect the honor and bravery of all those who gave their lives.

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

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 failing 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.


Feature image: National Cemetery, Salisbury, NC (Source