In the 100-plus years since World War I began, more than 645,000 men and women have given their lives to defend the United States in conflicts across the globe.
While Americans honor those who have served or are serving in various ways, one of the universal symbols of remembrance is a red poppy flower, which originated in 1918 with Moina Bell Michael.
Michael, a humanitarian and college professor, was inspired to always wear a poppy in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War by the opening line of John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” war poem, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / between the crosses row on row.”
Today, the poppy remains an iconic military symbol, one that is going digital thanks to a partnership between the United Services Automobile Association (USAA), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion Auxiliary, whose inaugural National Poppy Day falls on May 26.
“Leveraging the technology of the 21st century, the virtual poppy wall gives a chance to dedicate a poppy to some American who gave the last full measure,” John Bird, USAA’s senior vice president of military affairs and a retired vice admiral of the Navy, told Metro.
In addition to visiting their local VFW to pick up a handmade poppy flower as they may have done in years past, this year, Americans can dedicate a virtual poppy at poppyinmemory.com and share it on Twitter and Facebook as well join the conversation use #PoppyInMemory on social media.
As a 35-year veteran of military service who followed in his father’s naval footsteps, a poppy is “a very simple thing, but means so much” to Bird, he said.
“Oftentimes when these national holidays come along, especially Memorial Day, we tend to focus on the sales in local department stores, the cookouts and a chance to not go to work,” he added. “What we forget is the importance those Americans who gave so very much for us and our way of life.”