Buddy Poppy1 Giving Our Veterans A “Hand” – Michigan’s Helping Hand Series
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Giving Our Veterans A “Hand” – Michigan’s Helping Hand Series

Buddy Poppy(1)
Courtesy of The VFW

It seems to signal to the skies/That blood of heroes never dies.

— “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Michael

Michael’s poem, in addition to being quite emotional, is a reply to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields.” It is directly connected to the conception of making, selling, and wearing red poppies in support of our veterans on Memorial Day. I remember collecting these poppies each year. I’d walk around with my family along Michigan Avenue near Greenfield Road in Downtown Dearborn before the start of the parade; I would take a poppy from anyone who handed it to me (which was almost everyone), pick up the poppies that had fallen to the ground, and would have a bouquet just in time to start marching. My grandma was in full uniform. Although she wasn’t in the service, she was part of the organization that put on the Dearborn Memorial Day parade every year, the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council’s (DAWVC) Memorial Day Parade committee. Her husband, my grandfather, had been in the service. They belonged to the DAWVC together. She supported him as the other wives supported their husbands.

Photo by Rebecca Battles

When I was a little girl, Memorial Day always represented a day of fun. I didn’t realize what and whom the holiday truly honored. Wearing a hat that matched my grandmother’s and waving an American flag that was just my size, I would march right next to my grandparents absolutely ecstatic that I was on display. I would dance. I would skip. I would wave at everyone who must have been just as excited to see me as I them. I didn’t have a clue that the organization that I was absent-mindedly supporting had a deeper purpose. I couldn’t fathom, at that age, how organizations like this gave members a sense of belonging by being surrounded by others who understood them. All I knew was that at the end of the parade I got to eat a hotdog and drink a soda.

In my youthful glee I didn’t realize that there were other organizations out there, such as Downtown Detroit’s Michigan Veterans Foundation, that were not only trying to educate non-veterans about a dire need for an up rise of support for our men and women coming back to civilian life, but to actively change lives. It wouldn’t have even occurred to me that “6.8% of the population [were] veterans [and] 35% of the homeless [were] veterans.” The MVF has a plethora of services such as Transitional Housing, Employment Training, and PTSD Counseling. Because after everything that our veterans have seen and experienced in order to protect the Land of the Free, they deserve an outpour of gratitude, help, and patience.

So on this unofficial start to summer, while you’re busy breaking out the barbecues, planting the flower flats, and opening up the pools for the warmer season, remember those families who have an empty chair or two at their picnic tables and say a little prayer of thanks.

Rebecca Battles, Contributing Writer

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  1. What a moving essay! I bet most of us never stop to think about what Memorial Day is all about. Thanks for a good reminder.

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