National Poppy Day on May 22

CUSTER COUNTY–May 22 is National Poppy Day. The symbolism of the poppy dates back more than 100 years, since World War I. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the famous poem “In Flanders Field” in 1915 and the poppy flower soon became a recognized symbol of sacrifice and remembrance.

President Nancy Harrold of the American Legion Auxiliary Palmer-Lomax Unit 126 spoke with KCNI/KBBN this month and shared a bit of history surrounding the wartime poem.

“The poppy came to symbolize the bloodshed protecting American freedoms following the publication of a wartime poem, “In Flanders Field.” A lieutenant colonel [John McCrae] wrote the poem about his fellow soldiers being killed in battle and in November 1918 a member of the American Legion Auxiliary [Moina Michael] read the poem and she picked up on the first part–‘in Flanders Field the poppies blow between the crosses row on row’–and she thought that would be a great symbol for a campaign to collect money to be used for the military, the veterans, and their families,” Harrold said.

According to a press release from Harrold, the local chapter of the American Legion Auxiliary put in nearly 230 hours, traveled more than 1,200 miles, and used more than $1,700 to visit and serve area veterans in Custer County, Grand Island, and Kearney.

This year’s annual Poppy Campaign is being done differently due to COVID-19 and auxiliary members cannot meet face-to-face to collect donations. However, Nancy Harrold said members are doing their best to encourage the public to still contribute and can send donations to local poppy chairman Jan Doggett at 409 Curran Ave. in Berwyn, NE 68814. Donations can also be dropped off at Jan’s salon where donors can pick up their poppies. Receipts will also be sent out to donors.

“During the moth of May our American Legion Auxiliary throughout the whole United States is contacting people and asking for donations for our programs. Normally we visit each business and we visit with people and hand out poppies and ask for donations. But this year, we’re not able to do it person to person,” Harrold said.

Each year Unit 126 helps out with veterans programs in the schools, the veterans soup supper, and other annual programs. The American Legion Auxiliary recently celebrated its 100th anniversary marking a century of service helping the United States military, supporting the American Legion, and honoring veterans and their families.

“Four times a year we go to the [veterans] facilities taking cards and gifts and then just visiting with the veterans and letting them know that we still care and want to be a part of their lives,” Harrold told KCNI/KBBN in the midst of this difficult time when many of the auxiliary’s programs have had to be canceled.