"In Flanders Fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row..."
This line of a poem, written by Lt. Col. John McCrae during the First World War to honor a fallen soldier, so moved New Yorker Moina Michael that she bought a bouquet of poppies and handed them out to businessmen where she worked. She asked them to wear the poppy as a tribute to the fallen. That was in 1918. Later, Michael spearheaded the campaign that resulted in the adoption of the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice.
Ninety-six years later, members of the American Legion Auxiliary are still handing out poppies as a symbol of the blood shed by American service members who fought on foreign soil. The Turlock ALA will be offering crêpe paper poppies to the public at different locations around town during the month of May and collecting donations, as a way to pay tribute to the nation's honored war dead.
Each nine-piece poppy the ALA gives out is hand-made by a disabled or hospitalized veteran, who is paid a small amount for each flower. For some veterans, this labor-intensive activity represents not only their sole source of income, but also a relaxing activity to help pass the time.
The ALA provides the raw materials for the poppies and then purchases the completed flowers from the veterans.
"Every year we order over 7,000 poppies," said Jean Coleman, a member of American Legion Auxiliary Post 88. "Last year...the donations were around $3,000, that's pretty good. All of it goes towards our veterans."
Seven million memorial poppies are distributed each year by American Legion Auxiliary members across the country, raising an average of $2 million for veterans programs.
Donations will also be accepted at the American Legion Auxiliary Rex Ish Post 88, P.O. Box 366, Turlock, CA 95381.