My father-in-law (may God rest his most precious soul!) was a veteran. Proud to have served his country during WWII, he was a great supporter of our men in uniform, a true patriot and a member of the VFW. He served his time in India, was injured in a “friendly fire” incident, and took great pleasure in regaling us all with tales of his time in the United States Army.

He drove a large blue Ford van…an American made car and would never drive anything else. Suspended over the visor were a multitude of these:

The Buddy Poppy. From the VFW:

The poppy movement was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian forces before the United States entered World War I. Distributing replicas of the original Flanders poppy originated in some of the allied countries immediately after the Armistice.

No definite organized distribution of poppies on a nationwide scale was conducted in America until 1921, when the Franco-American Children’s’ League distributed poppies ostensibly for the benefit of children in the devastated areas of France and Belgium.

Madam Guerin, who was recognized as the “Poppy Lady from France,” sought and received the cooperation of the veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. early in 1922, after the Franco-American Children’s’ League was dissolved. The VFW conducted a poppy campaign prior to Memorial Day, 1922, using only poppies that were made in France. In the 1923 poppy campaign, due to the difficulty and delay in getting poppies from France, the VFW made use of a surplus of French poppies that were on hand and the balance was provided by a firm in New York City manufacturing artificial flowers.

It was during the 1923 campaign that the VFW evolved the idea, which resulted in the VFW poppy fashioned by disabled and needy veterans who were paid for their work as a practical means of providing assistance for these comrades. This plan was formally presented for adoption to the 1923 encampment of the VFW at Norfolk, Virginia.

Some of the Buddy Poppies in my father-in-law’s van were very faded, some were slightly brighter, many were new. If this gentleman saw a member of the VFW selling the Buddy Poppy, he always made a donation to acquire a few, contributed generously and encouraged those around him to do the same.

This morning as I’m driving to Mass, I’ll be looking for the poppies. It’s a tradition in our family to purchase them on Memorial Day to honor our fallen heroes, but more importantly to us remember the service offered by this great man and all the other fathers, grandfathers, brothers and sons like him.