Op-Ed: ‘Honoring Our Nation’s War Dead’ with Poppies

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Typically, on the weekend before Memorial Day, war veterans distribute poppies to honor the ultimate sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. However, due to the pandemic members of our local Veterans of Foreign War Post, 653 will not be distributing poppies. 

By Aaron Burden aaronburden – https://unsplash.com/photos/mqwcNlWf3II, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61780624

Still, poppies will be available for no contact self-service in front of ACME, Dunkin’ Donuts, Walter Stewart’s Market and Zumbach’s. The significance of the poppy in honoring our nation’s war dead is traced to World War I.

From the battlefields of World War I, weary soldiers brought home the memory of a barren landscape transformed by wild poppies, red as the blood that had soaked the soil. By that miracle, the poppy became a symbol of the sacrifice of lives in war and represented the hope that none had died in vain. The poppy has continued to bloom for the casualties wars, its petals of paper bound together for veterans by veterans, reminding America each year that the men and women who have served and died for their country deserve to be remembered. 

New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski

Although poppies have a long history of being used to honor the dead in both Greek and Roman mythology, the poppy, as a memorial flower to the war dead, can be traced to a single individual, Moina Michael. She was so moved by Lt. Col. McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” that she wrote a response:

“. . . the blood of heroes never dies
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders’ Fields.”

On impulse, she bought a bouquet of poppies—all that New York City’s Wanamaker’s Department Store had—and handed them to businessmen meeting at the New York YMCA where she worked. She asked them to wear the poppy as a tribute to the fallen. That was November 1918. World War I was over, but America’s sons would rest forever “in Flanders’ Fields.” Later she would spearhead a campaign that would result in the adoption of the poppy as the national symbol of sacrifice.

This Memorial Day, especially since we are unable to honor our war dead during our parade, please wear a poppy proudly. Always remember the grave sacrifice many New Canaan veterans have made while fighting for the freedom we all revere. 

Respectfully,

Leon Krolikowski, 
Member, Post 653, New Canaan VFW

4 thoughts on “Op-Ed: ‘Honoring Our Nation’s War Dead’ with Poppies

  1. Thank you, Chief, for this poignant message, and your service.
    Were it not for this pandemic, you might not have shared this with us.
    Even in these complicated times, points of light like this somehow emerge.
    We are fortunate to be among first responders and others who inspire us.
    Keith Simpson

    • Thank you for sharing this all important information & details I didn’t know, Chief Krolikowski.
      If we forget or do not learn, we are destined to repeat errors of the past.

  2. Thank you, Chief Krolikowski for reminding us to obtain our poppies and wear them proudly because of what they represent. The necessity of cancelling the Memorial Day Parade is particularly sad this year because in January we lost our own Peter Langenus, Commander of VFW Post 653. We will miss seeing him at Walter Stewart’s distributing poppies and especially leading the beautiful service at Lakeview Cemetery after the parade. He always ended with the reading of “In Flanders Fields.” His commitment to honoring our veterans was unwavering.

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