Editor's note: As we pause today to honor members of our military, both past and present, area veteran Ken Schucht has submitted the following piece that tells the story of a long-standing tradition: the use of red poppies to honor those who have served in uniform.
The First World War caused widespread devastation to areas of northern France and Belgium, but the poppy flowered every year, bringing color and hope to the devastated landscape.
Col. John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Armed Forces, was deeply moved by what he saw and, inspired by the poppies, wrote a poem - "In Flanders' Fields."
McCrae died in a military hospital on the French coast shortly after writing his poem, but it was published in Punch magazine, showing the world what conditions on the battlefields were like.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the First World War ended. Thousands had died, thousands more had been injured and scarred by their horrific experiences, and needed support and practical help when they returned.
For those people and their families, life would never be the same again.
Civilians wanted to remember the people who had given their lives for peace and freedom. An American war secretary, Moina Michael, was inspired by John McCrae's poem, and sold poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-service community.
And so the tradition began.
In 1922, Major George Howson MC, who served in the First World War, founded the Disabled Society. He recognized unemployed ex-servicemen could make artificial poppies, and approached the Legion. He founded a small factory, which was later to become The Royal British Legion Poppy Factory.
The British Legion - now The Royal British Legion - was formed in 1921 from four separate ex-service organizations. The first official Legion Poppy Day was held in Britain on Nov. 11, 1921, and since then the poppy appeal has been a key annual event in the nation's calender.
IN FLANDERS' FIELDS
By John McCrae, 1915
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.