It begins with a Poppy, and my recent receipt of one. No, not the vibrant, red bloom from the garden, but the small, unobtrusive, flimsy crepe paper one. Thus starting what looks to become an annual tradition for me; writing a post for Memorial Day. Last years Remembrance reflected on my relationship with (read that sotry by clicking the highlighted words) bringing forth youthful memories of my father and working with him on his “hobby” farm.
The Poppy Program has been aligned with the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) since 1921. I was given my Poppy a few days early this year from a lovely lady at the entrance of the local grocery store. Volunteers with the VFW and American Legion groups are in the community collecting donations to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. In exchange, for your coins or bills, you receive this little token of color. Every one hand made, the Poppy symbolizes the sacrifice of service made by our veterans becoming a nationally known symbol worn to honor those who served and died. For those unfamiliar, your Poppy can adorn a button-hole, wrap around a purse strap or affix to a collar.
My father, Wilfred H. Vanderloop, served in World War II and was a life-long member, and volunteer, with the local American Legion Post in our rural Wisconsin town. The Poppy represents part of my youth along with those family memories from Memorial Day.....the annual parade, Mr. Chladil and the Ozaukee HS Marching Band; planting geraniums and petunias with my Mom on my grandparents graves, the picnic at Legion Park. In those days Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30th, no matter what day of the week it fell, and also being my birthday it always felt quite special not having to go to school and being able to join in the activities.
During the 60’s and 70’s, our family connection to the American Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary extended throughout the year. We volunteered at fund-raisers such as the Friday Night Fish Fry. I particularly remember the tasks we were assigned at the annual Smelt Fry (and smelly it was); Dad, a fry cook, Mom on coffee duty, kids cleaning up. We helped at the Summer Community Picnic and Fair (again Dad was the fry cook, burgers this time, and I helped the kid’s hook their toys from the fishing booth.) As I grew older the tasks changed, of course, and additional opportunities arose. The summer after my junior year of high school I was selected to participate in the week-long government program in Madison, American Legion Auxiliary Badger Girl’s State, my first “big” trip away from home without the folks.
Just a few months after I returned home from Badger Girls State, in poignant circumstance, it came to be that the local Legion Post was home to my father’s last dance. Yes, he died after suffering a pulmonary embolism, dancing a polka with my mother at the Legion Post Christmas party, December 9, 1973. He was only 58 years old. A bittersweet ending for a wonderful father who was my roller-skating partner and taught me how to dance the polka.
The local Legion Post was an integral part of our small town life throughout my youth. Thank you Legionnaires, I wear my Poppy with pride; in memory of my father, those Friday night fish fries and Memorial Day parades. Don’t forget your Poppy this year. Wherever you pin it, glue it or place it, you will honor those who serve and remember those who died.
Learn more about the American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Poppy Program.
Links to post:
In Flanders Fields
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.
–Lt. Col. John McCrae
--Brenda Vanderloop, Vanderloop Communications, is a voice in the community promoting small business and championing local, sustainable practices. Connect with Brenda on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.