What’s the significance of red poppies? American Legion has answers.

MADISON – Why do Madison American Legion members give a poppy to individuals on Memorial Day weekend? To explain the poppy’s significance, Madison Auxiliary Unit, Post 229 is sponsoring the Flanders Field Poppy Art Contest to show youth.

“The poppy is our national symbol of remembrance for those who have given their lives in the service of our nation’s wars,” Auxiliary President Jean Downs said. “For many Americans, Memorial Day represents a three-day weekend to kick off our summer plans, and the true meaning of the holiday is lost.”

Teaching today’s youth about the weekend’s significance is important. “One of those greatest traditions is the distribution of poppies by the American Legion family,” Downs said. “I hope this year, as families are rushing in and out of Walmart and local stores, that they pause and receive a poppy from an auxiliary or post member, and then take the time to explain its significance to their children.”

Post 229 purchases poppies from the American Legion organization. Most of the Auxiliary’s annual budget comes from donations received for poppies. This money funds all veterans’ projects throughout the year, sends local youth to Girls State and Boys State and provides awards for JROTC programs and youth education.

Post and auxiliary members encourage local businesses to allow employees to help with poppy distribution on Memorial Day weekend. “We ask you to consider making a donation to the American Legion family,” Downs said.

“Your participation in this program will not only help ensure continuation of the vital programs of the American Legion and Auxiliary within our community but also help instill a sense of patriotism within your place of work,” Downs said.

The poppies’ red color does not symbolize blood, death or support for war. Instead, poppies were the only flowers that grew in war-torn battlefields during World War I. Seeing red poppies inspired one Canadian soldier, Col. John McCrae, to write “In Flanders Field” in 1915.

To educate youth about a poppy’s significance, American Legion Auxiliary is sponsoring the Flanders Field Poppy Art Contest, open to middle and high school students.

“Using your imagination and artistic skills, teach others about the Flanders Poppy, the symbol of the sacrifice Americans have made since World War I and honoring those who’ve served and died for us in all wars,” Downs said.

Posters are due by May 11. Auxiliary members will announce the winners on May 17.

“We will display the top three posters for each grade (6-12) at Madison’s Veterans Memorial Park during the week of Memorial Day. We also will recognize first-place winners on May 31 during the American Legion, Post 229 Memorial Day ceremony at the park,” Downs said.

For more information, visit madisonlegionpost229.org.

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