History of 'buddy poppy' program goes back to WWI - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

History of 'buddy poppy' program goes back to WWI

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The history of the Buddy Poppy goes back to World War I. (Source: KLTV staff) The history of the Buddy Poppy goes back to World War I. (Source: KLTV staff)
LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) -

Many attending Memorial Day services all across the country wore red poppies as a symbol of remembrance. But where did this tradition come from?

Some people attending the Gregg County Memorial Day ceremony knew part of the story.

Aaron Sorenson, 14-year-old Longview Boy Scout, made sure everyone was wearing a Buddy Poppy at the Gregg County Memorial Day Service. The poppies are a free reminder to donate to help veterans.

The VFW Post 1183 in Longview supplied the poppies and Kathy Ashcraft kept track of the poppies and the money donated to veterans.

"We have a fund that all the money goes into and it's to help the veterans. If they need to make a payment on something or gas to go somewhere; traveling through. Just different things the veterans need," Ashcraft said.

But how did idea for the poppy begin? Cecil Honea was at the memorial and told the story about an epic battle at Flanders Fields in Belgium where many men died and were buried during World War I.

"After the battle this poet went out on the battlefield and there were just poppies everywhere," Honea said.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae noticed how quickly red poppies grew over the graves of his friend and other fallen soldiers. That inspired McCrae to write the poem "In Flanders Fields" in May of 1915.

McCrae was a soldier, physician and writer. And it turns out he wasn't happy with his poem. Legend has it he threw it away and another soldier plucked it out of the trash.

Moina Michael read the poem, wrote one of her own and started selling red poppies as remembrance flowers on Memorial Day, donating the money to veterans in need.

"And it became the symbol of the VFW," Honea said.

"The poppies, I don't know, they're just part of all of it together," Ashcraft concluded.

The most ironic part of the story is the symbolism of the poppy might never have happened if not for a soldier digging in the trash.

Just before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW became the first veteran's organization to sell poppies across the United States. Within a couple years, it was called the Buddy Poppy program and ever since then, the poppies have been made by disabled vets.

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