National Poppy Day may be a relatively new day of recognition for most people, but the symbolism behind the red flower goes back decades.
From the battlefields of World War I, weary soldiers brought home the memory of barren landscapes transformed by the wild poppies, red as the blood that had soaked the soil. By that miracle of nature, the spirit of their lost comrades lived on. The poppy became a symbol of the sacrifice of lives in war and represented the hope that none had died in vain.
Millions of people worldwide wear the poppy as a call to honor living veterans and those who lost their lives. The custom can be traced back to 1918 when Molina Michael popularized the idea of wearing a poppy flower in memory of the lives lost in WWI. She drew inspiration from the poem “In Flanders Field,” written by Col. John McCrae in his sorrow at looking at rows of graves of recently buried comrades.
In the decades that followed, poppies have been worn, displayed and distributed worldwide for fundraising efforts by veteran groups such as the American Legion Family.
The American Legion has had a connection to the poppy since the early 1920’s when it was adopted as the organization’s official memorial flower. Since then, the American Legion Auxiliary has led the initiative to support the military community by promoting the significance of the flower. Each year, Legion members and volunteers distribute the poppy during outreach.
Historically, Poppy Days are commemorated on Veterans Day. Americans have worn poppies in observance of both Memorial Day and Veterans Day. In 2017, the American Legion asked Congress to designate the Friday before Memorial Day as National Poppy Day. This year, that is on May 22.
In a related move, Thursday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all State Flags to be flown at Half-Staff in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day. In a statement, the Governor said:
"To honor and show gratitude for their service, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida from sunrise to sunset on Friday, May 15, 2020"