The American Legion Auxiliary, Howard Kilmer Post 510 in Mercury will distribute poppies on Friday, May 23. This memorial poppy of the American Legion Auxiliary is made by hospitalized veterans. It is distributed to the public near Memorial Day and all donations received are used only to benefit America’s veterans. “The poppies that we will be distributing were made by Harry Mumm, V.A. Medical Center Section Bldg. 18AE in Temple,” said American Legion Auxiliary President Peggy Ross. The Memorial Poppy The poppy as the memorial flower for American war dead is a tradition which began in the years following the first World War. Veterans returning to their homes in this country remembered the wild poppies which lined the devastated battlefields of France and Flanders, and the soldiers of all nations came to look upon this flower as a living symbol of their dead comrades’ sacrifice. A Canadian officer, Col. John McRae, who was killed during the war, immortalized the flower in his famous poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Returning servicemen brought with them memories of the battlefield poppies and the flower soon took on a sacred significance. The red blossom became the flower of remembrance for the men whose lives had been lost in the defense of freedom. As a memorial emblem for the war dead, it underlined the plight of those men who did not die, but returned permanently disabled. The poppy soon became a symbol of honoring the dead and assisting the living victims of the war. Soon after the Armistice, patriotic organizations in different countries began conducting poppy sales. The flowers made by disabled servicemen, raised funds for relief work among handicapped veterans and their families. Wearing a poppy came to mean honor the dead and help the living. Wearing poppies in honor of the dead first occurred in New York City on Nov. 9, 1918. A YMCA staff worker, Miss Moina Michael of Athens, Ga., distributed poppies to a group of men attending the 25th conference of her organization. The homecoming of the 32nd Division in Milwaukee, in June 1919, marked the beginning of the Auxiliary’s poppy program. A coffee and doughnut booth decorated with paper poppies was stripped of its floral ornaments twice, and the passersby who took the poppies left contributions on the counter. Several hundred dollars was contributed for the benefit of the disabled veterans. One of the women in the booth, Mrs. Mary Hanecy, proposed that distribution of poppies on the streets at the time of Memorial Day would be an excellent way for American Legion posts to raise money needed for rehabilitation work. She presented her idea to George F. Plant, a member of Post No. 1 in Milwaukee, and as a result this group conducted a poppy distribution on the Saturday before Memorial Day, 1920. Post No. 1 distributed 50,000 poppies and netted $5,500 during the first regularly conducted Poppy Day on record.