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Olivia Downs, at left, and Mary Downs, members of American Legion Junior Auxiliary, handed out poppies for the traditional observance leading up to Memorial Day. CONTRIBUTED

American Legion, Auxiliary share poppies for Memorial Day

MADISON – Constraints from the COVID-19 virus threated to end a long-standing tradition for Madison American Legion, Post 229 for Memorial Day.

Because direct contact violated ‘safer-at-home’ guidelines for social distancing, members of American Legion, Post 229 and American Legion Auxiliary could not set up tables at retail stores and other sites to hand out poppies to the public. Fortunately, post members reached a compromise to sustain this gesture of American patriotism.

“The City of Madison allowed us to set up outside of City Hall to distribute poppies. We worked on May 20-21,” Auxiliary Unit President Jean Downs said.

Local defense contractor Teledyne Brown Engineering provided memoriam cards with artwork of the poppy flower and a copy of the poem, “In Flanders Field.” “Teledyne Brown, SCI Corporation and Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway also have made generous donations to the American Legion and Auxiliary,” Downs said.

In addition, the Auxiliary provided poppies to officers of Madison Police Department “to wear this week and to show their remembrance for our fallen,” Downs said. “Employees working in City Hall also received poppies.”

In other Memorial Day observances, members of American Legion, Post 229 will place flags during the weekend at veterans’ gravesites. However, this annual activity will not be open to the public this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, the Memorial Day service at veteran’s park on Front Street in downtown Madison will be open only to a small gathering of American Legion, Post 229 members who will pay their respects.

The poppy is an important symbol on Memorial Day, because the flowers are associated with military personnel who died during wartime since World War I. Poppies were the only flowers that grew in war-torn battlefields during World War I.

Seeing the red poppies in May 1915, a Canadian soldier, Col. John McCrae, was motivated to write “In Flanders Fields.”

The opening/closing of the poem follows:

“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” …
… “If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.”

Donations to American Legion are tax-deductible under the 501(c)19 non-profit category for veteran organizations. Individuals can postal mail checks payable to American Legion, Auxiliary Unit 229, P.O. Box 194, Madison AL 35758.

To more information about American Legion Auxiliary, call Downs at 256-929-8450 or email

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