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Bits and Pieces: The Buddy Poppy tradition

This week, the May 15-21, the VFW Auxiliary is conducting its poppy sales/donation in the area. I have probably used this before, but will like to share the story on the "Buddy Poppy". From its inception, the Buddy Poppy Program has helped the VFW live up to its motto, "to honor the dead by helping the living." The Buddy Poppy, small red flower symbolic of the blood shed in World War I by millions of Allied soldiers in defense of freedom, was originally sold to provide relief for the people of war-devastated France. Later, its sale directly benefited thousands of disabled and down and out American veterans.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was the first veteran organization to promote a nationally organized campaign for the annual distribution of Poppies assembled by disabled and needy veterans.

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's 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 that were made in 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 Buddy 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. Immediately thereafter the VFW Buddy Poppy factory was established in Pittsburgh, PA., where all VFW Buddy Poppies for the 1924 campaign were assembled by disabled veterans. General Frank T. Hines, Director of the U.S. Veteran's Bureau, endorsed the plan and pledged the cooperation of his department. All men employed in the assembling of the Buddy Poppies for the 1924 campaign were sent to the VFW Poppy workshop by the U.S. Veteran's Bureau regional manager in Pittsburgh. The designation "Buddy Poppy" which originated with the men themselves, was adopted at that time. In February 1924 the VFW registered the name "Buddy Poppy" with U.S. Patent Office and a certificated was issued on May 20, 1924, granting the VFW all trademark rights in the name of "Buddy" under the classification of artificial flowers. The VFW had made that trademark guarantee that all Poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the work of disabled and needy veterans. No other organization, firm or individual can make legal use of the name "Buddy" Poppy.

Following the 1924 campaign, a number of the larger Departments (States) of the VFW believed it would stimulate local distribution if the Poppies they used were assembled by disabled veterans in hospitals within their own jurisdiction. The 1924 encampment of the VFW at Atlantic City granted this privilege, under the provision that all Poppies would be produced according to specifications set forth by the National Buddy Poppy Committee, and that all Poppies would be assembled by disabled veterans in government hospitals and by needy veterans in workshops supervised by the VFW.

This material was provided by the VFW Department of Minnesota in their General Orders. I hope you will donate and buy a Buddy Poppy when approached, all proceeds are put in the local VFW Auxiliary Relief Fund and distributed to different areas of the VFW. Most of these dollars go to the V.A. hospitals and veterans homes in our area. To the National Home for Children in Michigan. None of the funds are used for other purposes except to benefit the veterans.

Thank-you and have a good day!