Starting tomorrow, May 2, look for the VFW Auxiliary around town and in area businesses in Milbank and Wilmot. The members will be dressed in their official navy blue vests, wearing their uniform caps, and clutching bunches of poppies.
If it seems as though you have witnessed this scene every May of your life, you are correct. The VFW and Auxiliary are celebrating the 100th birthday of the poppy this year. The poppy was first adopted as the memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1922 to honor the soldiers lost in WWI, and the red flower is symbolic of the blood shed in “Flander’s Field.”
The name Buddy Poppy, now trademarked, was designated in 1923, when disabled veterans, who were paid for their work, assembled the poppies. Today, the poppies are still created by disabled and needy veterans in VA hospitals.
The poppies are not for sale, but free-will offerings are always accepted. The money collected goes to the veterans who assemble the poppies, rehabilitation and service programs, and to help support the VFW National Home for Children.
Members of the Auxiliary, with help from the local VFW Post 3486, were busy preparing the poppies for distribution to businesses, cemeteries, and individuals. The Auxiliary ordered and paid for 2000 poppies this year.
As is typical, the flowers were shipped in small bunches and then pulled apart and attached to the wreaths and crosses. The VFW construct the white, wooden crosses for the cemeteries, and the auxiliary members attach the poppies. Before Memorial Day, the Auxiliary will visit the grave of each deceased member to place a cross with poppies at their grave.
Janice Vreim, who was in the VFW meeting room preparing the poppies on Thursday, April 21, said, “I been making poppy crosses for businesses and deceased auxiliary members for 60 years — since 1961.” Merna Bell, also hard at work on Thursday, said she has been making poppies for 25 years. Bev Foss, a fellow auxiliary worker, said, “I have been a member for years, but this is my first year making poppies.”
In observance of Memorial Day 2022, there will be 36 crosses erected in the Catholic Cemetery in Milbank, 60 in the Milbank Cemetery, two in the Marvin Cemetery, and eight in the Wilmot Cemetery. Donna Larson is in charge of the Poppy Program for the 3486 Post in Milbank.
Poppies are available from the VFW Auxiliary for the first two weeks in May. Vreim said, “This is such an important project because it directly helps veterans.”
Photo: seated- Bev Foss, Donna Larson, Joanne Hoeke, standing Janice Vriem and Merna Bell