As we prepare to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, let’s not lose sight of the importance of one of its symbols: the red poppy. Many of you probably received a poppy after you gave a donation at a local storefront earlier this month to help fund programs for veterans.
Now is the time to wear the “red poppy” to church, to the community service, to the parade, to the picnic or barbecue and wherever we go.
The red poppy dates to the Napoleonic Wars but was inspired by a poem written during World War I that is entitled “In Flanders Fields.” This beautiful tribute to all who have given their lives to preserve our freedom is often read at Memorial Day services in our communities.
The poem reads as follows:
“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 scare heard amid the guns below.
“We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset low, 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 you break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”
On a trip to Belgium a few years ago, I traveled by train to the outskirts of Flanders fields. I learned from native Belgians that war damage done during the Napoleonic Wars had left mostly lime in the soil so the only flower that could grow in that area was the poppy. Thus, it was common that red poppies grew over the graves of the soldiers.
Today in America we wear the red poppy to honor the brave men and women who sacrificed everything for our country.
This weekend is a perfect time to place red poppies on the graves of our fallen heroes who rest in our local cemeteries as well as those buried at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery near Little Falls or at Fort Snelling Cemetery in Minneapolis.
May we pause this weekend to remember our fallen heroes, the men and women who answered the call of freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) represents District 15A in the Minnesota Legislature.