History of the Buddy Poppies - look for veterans at Fred Meyer Fri and Sat

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Shoreline poppies
Photo by Lee Lageschulte
Veterans from the Blackburn-Aurora VFW Post 3348 will be accepting donations for Buddy Poppies at the Shoreline Fred Meyer, 185th and Aurora, on Friday and Saturday, November 8-9, 2019.

Money from Buddy Poppies goes to veterans' causes.

History of the Buddy Poppy

In April of 1915 a battle-weary Canadian soldier viewed the final resting place of thousands of young men who had fallen in the second Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Despondently he contemplated the rows of hastily dug graves – each marked by a lone white cross. Amid the graves he saw little patches of red – wild poppies.

Inspired, Colonel John McCrae sat down and penned the three short verses of his famous poem “In Flanders Fields”. The poem brought a message of confidence to millions of people in the dark hours of WWI and established the Flanders Poppy as a symbol of faith and hope in a war-torn world.

The Buddy Poppy, the small red flower symbolic of the blood that was shed in World War I by millions of Allied soldiers in defense of freedom, was originally sold to provide relief for the people of war devastated France. Later, its sales directly benefited thousands of disabled and down-and-out American veterans.

The VFW conducted its first poppy distribution before Memorial Day in 1922, becoming the first veterans' organization to organize a nationwide distribution. The poppy soon was adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

During the 1923 encampment the VFW decided that VFW "Buddy"® Poppies would be assembled by disabled and needy veterans who would be paid for their work to provide them with financial assistance. The next year, disabled veterans at the Buddy Poppy factory in Pittsburgh assembled VFW Buddy Poppies. The designation "Buddy Poppy" was adopted at that time.

In February 1924, the VFW registered the name Buddy Poppy with the U.S. Patent Office. A certificate was issued on May 20, 1924, granting the VFW all trademark rights in the name of “Buddy” under the classification of artificial flowers. The VFW has made that trademark a guarantee that all poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the work of disabled and needy veterans. No other organization, firm or individual can legally use the name “Buddy Poppy”.

Today, VFW Buddy Poppies are still assembled by disabled and needy veterans in VA Hospitals. The VFW Buddy Poppy program provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans' rehabilitation and service programs, and partially supports the VFW National Home for Children.

The poppy program actually got its start on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Shortly after World War I, Madame E. Guerin, founder of the American and French Children's League, became concerned that the free world was "forgetting too soon those sleeping in Flanders Fields."

Inspired by Colonel John McCrae's poem, "In Flanders Fields," which spoke of poppies growing in an Allied graveyard "between the crosses, row on row," Guerin decided on the poppy as the most appropriate memorial flower.

She began attending the conventions of any serviceman's organization that would allow her to speak. Her request was always the same - to enact the following resolution: "Be it resolved that every member, if possible, and his or her family shall wear a red poppy."

The poppy program was quickly embraced by the people of France, and also secured the sponsorship of the Prince of Wales, the Governors General of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and the President of Cuba. In each of these countries, veteran's organizations and their auxiliaries agreed to sell memorial poppies for the benefit of the children of France.

In April 1919, the "Poppy Lady," as Madame Guerin was now known, arrived in the United States. The Poppy Lady turned to the VFW. In May 1922, the VFW conducted the first nationwide distribution of Poppies in the United States. Then, at its National Encampment in Seattle in August 1922, the organization adopted the Poppy as the official memorial flower of the VFW.

The VFW had great difficulty obtaining enough Poppies for the 1923 sale. From the frustrations of the 1923 sales year, evolved a plan to pay disabled and needy American veterans to make the poppies. This plan was presented to the 1923 National Encampment for approval. Immediately following the plan's adoption, a VFW poppy factory was set up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All veterans who would be manufacturing poppies for the 1924 sale were sent to a training workshop by the U.S. Veterans Bureau regional manager in Pittsburgh.

It was from these early disabled poppy makers that the name which would be the flower's trademark came. The name just "grew" out of the poppy makers' remembrances of their buddies who never came back from war. Undoubtedly, because it expressed so simply the deepest significance of the Poppy Plan, the name stuck. All over the country, the little red flower became known as the "Buddy Poppy."

After the 1924 sale, some of the larger VFW (State) Departments suggested that it might improve the value of the poppies, if they were made by hospitalized veterans from their own area.

The delegates at the 1924 National Encampment agreed. They ruled that poppies would now be made throughout the U.S. by disabled veterans in government hospitals and by needy veterans in workshops supervised by the VFW. Currently the little red flowers of silk-like fabric are assembled in 11 different locations.

The VA Facilities in which they are made are located in: Leavenworth and Topeka, Kansas; Biloxi, Mississippi; Temple, Texas; Martinsburg, West Virginia; Hampton, Virginia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Dayton, Ohio; and White City and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

From the start of the VFW's poppy program, the U.S. Veterans Bureau, the Administrator of Veterans Affairs, and other federal agencies have supported the Buddy Poppy. And beginning with Warren G. Harding, U.S. Presidents have also been staunch supporters of the program. Each year, a Poppy Girl or Poppy Boy selected from the National Home's residents starts the annual campaign by presenting the first poppy to the President of the United States.

Today, there are strict rules governing how profits from Buddy Poppy sales are to be used at different levels within the organization. The National organization assesses a tax of 5 cents on every poppy purchased by VFW Posts nationwide.

Profits are used to fund department service work or other programs for the relief or wellbeing of VFW members. Posts receive their profits directly from public donations for Buddy Poppies. National by-laws require that the profits from these sales be placed in the post's Relief Fund to be used only for the following purposes:
  • For the aid, assistance, relief, and comfort of needy or disabled veterans or members of the Armed Forces and their dependents, and the widows and orphans of deceased veterans.
  • For the maintenance and expansion of the VFW National Home and other facilities devoted exclusively to the benefit and welfare of the dependents, widows, and orphans of disabled, needy, or deceased veterans or members of the Armed Forces.
  • For necessary expenses in providing entertainment, care, and assistance to hospitalized veterans or members of the Armed Forces.
  • For veterans' rehabilitation, welfare, and service work.
  • To perpetuate the memory of deceased veterans and members of the Armed Forces, and to comfort survivors. 

With help from the VFW, the "Little Red Flower" continues to benefit the needy just as the Poppy Lady believed it was capable of so many years ago.

To date, the VFW has sold over a billion Buddy Poppies. As long as Americans continue to spill their blood in defense of freedom, sales of these blood-red poppies will undoubtedly continue strong.


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