The red poppy has been a symbol of the American Legion Auxiliary since the 1920s. The flower is held near and dear to the hearts of our veterans because of what it represents and because the veterans themselves make the crepe paper flowers to help them with their rehabilitation. Memorial weekend and the week prior, Auxiliary members can be spotted distributing poppies to the public in exchange for donations. The money that is donated helps the Auxiliary fund various projects that provide assistance to veterans.

The story of the poppy began long before the Auxiliary adopted the flower as a way to help veterans. The story began during World War I when a doctor and soldier, LT. Col. John McCrae of the Canadian army, found out a friend of his had died in battle. McCrae wrote one of the most famous war poems, In Flanders Fields, to honor those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

Each year, around Memorial Day, services are held in Flanders Fields to honor the more than 360 American servicemen buried in Waregem, Belgium. Some of the bloodiest battles of World I took place in the areas of northern France and southwest Belgium known as Flanders.

The destruction from the battles in this area reached beyond the battlefield to the towns and roads of the area and led to the demolition of buildings, roads and all the plant life, leaving only the mud. But the dormant poppy seeds were now exposed after the burial of the dead soldiers and soon red poppies flourished in Flanders Fields, covering the newly dug graves.

The poppy story provides the Auxiliary an opportunity to instill the significance of the flower; who veterans are and the importance of the work that our veterans do. If the American Legion Auxiliary did not retell the poppy story each year, it would be forgotten.

According to Poppy Chairman, Carolyn Barthelme, the Sainte Marie American Legion Auxiliary Unit 932 will be distributing poppies this year on Thursday, May 24th from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. at the 4-way stop in Sainte Marie. They will also be visiting Sainte Marie and Willow Hill area businesses with a special poppy card to display on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and to distribute single poppies. On Saturday, May 26th, Auxiliary members will be at the post home in Sainte Marie distributing poppies during the Sainte Marie Village-Wide Garage Sales (8:00 to 11:00 am) and the S.A.L. Cookout being held 7:00 am to 1:00 pm.

The Sainte Marie Sons of the American Legion will be selling breakfast burritos; pork burgers and bratwurst. May 26th poppies will also be available at the American Legion Post 932 in Sainte Marie on Sunday, May 29th during their regular hours.

Please be generous…thank a veteran and proudly wear a poppy.