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The Poppy


If undisturbed, the poppy seed will lie on the top of the ground for years without producing a plant and partially for that reason the poppy has become a symbol of war and remembrance of those who were wounded or died in combat. Battlefields are generally torn up and then neglected for a year or two because of the carnage that has taken place thereby allowing the poppy to flourish. This was first noted when in July of 1693 William of Orange met Marshal Luxembourg at the Battle of Landen resulting in the loss of over 20,000 men and the ground was strewn with the dead and the dying. The following summer the poppy seeds, ground into the soil during the battle, germinated and spread a red carpet of flowers across the battlefield amid the bleached skulls of men and horses, a living memorial of the blood that was shed and a phenomena that was to be repeated throughout the centuries on European battlefields.

In 1914 the World War began in Europe traversing many of the same battlefields and in December of 1915 the poem, In Flanders’ Field, was published. Written by Lieut. Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician and solider, the poem begins, "In Flanders Field the poppies grow, between the crosses row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky, the larks still bravely, singing, fly..." The poem, made more poignant by the death of Lt. Col McCrae who was killed in action on January 28, 1918, became the central theme in the efforts of two women, Anne Guerin of France and Monia Michael of the United States to remember the orphans, the maimed and those who died in the war. It was in her poem, The Victory Emblem, that Michael penned the words:

We cherish too the poppy red

that grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies....

And now the torch and poppy red

We wear in honor of the dead

Fear naught that ye have died for naught

We’ve learned the lessons that ye taught

In Flanders’ fields.

Through their efforts, the American Legion adopted the poppy as their official flower in 1920 and artificial poppies, produced by disabled war veterans began to be sold in 1924 spreading across the country the following year.

It was on this day in 1932 that the poppies went on sale in the town of Hankinson not only to commemorate North Dakota’s 2,560 casualties of the "War to End All Wars" but with the rise of Nazi Germany and with war clouds looming in Europe, they reflected on the uncertainty of the future.

Seventy-five years later, on this Memorial Day, we honor those who have served in all the wars and pray for the safety of those loved ones who are serving around the world.

By Jim Davis


The Hankinson News May 24, 1923

The Hankinson News May 19, 1932

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