The poppy as a wartime symbol comes from the famous poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by John McCrae in 1915. In it he described the graves of soldiers among the fields of poppies:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row…”
Memorial Day Symbol
In 1915 an American named Moina Michael was inspired by the poem to wear and sell red poppies on Memorial Day to benefit servicemen in need. The practice spread to other countries.
VFW and the Poppy
In 1922, the VFW sold poppies nationally. They soon began their “Buddy Poppy” program, selling artificial poppies made by disabled war veterans.
Veteran’s Day Symbol
The poppy eventually became a symbol of honor and remembrance for servicemen who died in any war, not just World War I, and the poppy is now associated with Veteran’s Day as well as Memorial Day.
In Other Countries
Other countries have similar observances involving poppies on Nov. 11–Canadians wear red poppies, and in Great Britain, wreaths of poppies are laid at a London war memorial.