The History of the Buddy Poppy
The buddy poppy or remembrance poppy has been used since 1922 to commemorate military service members who have died in war. Although the practice originated in America with the American Legion, other military veteran organizations around the world have adopted the remembrance poppy, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand.
The remembrance poppies are modeled after the common poppy, and inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by John McCrae. The poem refers to the fact that poppies were the first flowers to grow on the graves of soldiers in Flanders, an area near Belgium.
Moina Michael, in response to McCrae’s poem, wrote a poem of her own, titled “We Shall Keep the Faith,” and promised to wear a red poppy to remember those who died in war. After the war, Moina worked with disabled veterans and realized the depth of their financial aid, and came up with a possible solution: selling silk poppy replicas.
To pursue her idea, she showed up to the November 1918 YWCA Conference with a silk poppy pinned to her jacket and distributed similar flowers to other attendants. At the conference, a Frenchwoman named Ana Guerin, took up the idea and set up a network of poppysellers, and the process became widely accepted.
Remembrance poppies are now a trademark of the VFW and continue to be a source of income for disabled veterans today.
The poem that inspired the remembrance poppies, “In Flanders Fields,” is reprinted here, as well as Moina Michael’s poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith.”
In Flanders Fields:
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
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
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 ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
We Shall Keep the Faith:
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.