Keeping the Faith with Poppies in May

May is the month for poppies in the U.S.A.   These simple, red flowers represent so much passion and emotion that I often marvel at their worldwide impact.  Millions of members and supporters of veteran organizations like the American Legion and the VFW distribute handmade paper poppies in the lead up to Memorial Day (the last Monday in May was declared a U.S. federal holiday in 1971). 

For almost 100 years, the poppy has been a powerful symbol of remembrance, respect and honor for military veterans in the UK, Canada, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

For many, the red poppy represents sacrifices made in the defense of freedom.

Photo by Brenda Smull

For me, the month of May is a time of solemn tributes and memorial services for veterans who have lost their lives while serving their country and more personally, for my father, who passed away on May 2, 2003.

Fifteen years ago this month, I gave an impassioned speech at the Austin Toastmasters club titled “In Flanders Fields”.  I opened with a recitation of the powerful World War I poem by Canadian Lt Col. John McCrae and told stories of how important the red poppy and the solemn Memorial Day traditions are to me and my family.  

This year I share an excerpt of the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith” written by an American woman named Moina Michael in 1918.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

Photo by Steve Smull

In keeping with the spirit of this poem and the opening thoughts of this article, below is a portion the First Vice Commander report I submitted for my American Legion Post’s newsletter.

“Across the country, May is an important month of remembrance which culminates in the Memorial Day holiday and tribute ceremonies. American Legion Post 64 continued with its annual tradition of holding an Honor and Remembrance Service during our May 17th member meeting. This year we rang the bell and called out the names of ten post and auxiliary members who passed away in the last year. This experience was especially impactful for me, since I participated in an honor guard ceremony and penned tribute articles for three of the deceased veterans. It was a simple, solemn and touching ceremony that gave our fellow legionnaires and auxiliary members the honor and respect they deserve. The meeting room was tastefully set up with a remembrance table of photos, programs and red roses for the family and friends of the deceased. In front of the lectern was an honor table with a beautiful wrought iron cross, candles, a Bible, a Koran and a yarmulke. Red poppies stood out brilliantly against the white tablecloth and added the strong and significant symbol of loss, sacrifice and hope.”

Photo by Steve Smull

March to May Remembrance


Photo by Steve Smull

To preserve the memories and honor the sacrifices of those who paid the ultimate price while serving their country, Ahwatukee American Legion Post 64 is dedicated to providing and supporting remembrance services and ceremonies.


American Legion Post 64 members. Photo by Steve Smull

Beginning in March and running through Memorial Day, Post 64 will have had three events dedicated to honoring fallen and past Veterans.

On March 15, 2019, the members of the post celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.  This special meeting was dedicated to the 1,194 crew members of the USS Indianapolis CA-35 which was torpedoed on July 30, 1945.

At the March meeting, post member John Boyer gave an educational and moving presentation about the disaster, the victims, and the 316 survivors. John is a survivor family member as his cousin, Lloyd Peter Barto, was one of the crew who was rescued after four days in the shark-infested waters of the Philippine Sea.

For more information on the USS Indianapolis Click here.

USSIndianapolismarch 2019 018

On May 15th, Post 64 honored and remembered 45 members who have passed in a special prayer service led by Post Chaplain Rebecca Schmidt.


John Boyer and Rebecca Schmidt. Photo by Steve Smull


The theme of Never Forget will culminate on Memorial Day, May 27, when Post 64 will join over 20 Color and Honor Guards from across Arizona to pass in review at the Parade of Colors. The Ahwatukee post join many others to place over 100 wreaths in a solemn and inspirational Memorial Day Service at The National Cemetery of Arizona in Cave Creek, AZ on 23029 North Cave Creek Roadbeginning at 8:00 am.


Post 64 Color Guard lined up for the Memorial Day ceremony

The Memorial Day Ceremonies are a very important and respected tradition for veterans and their families across the country and include the presentation of the flag, slow salutes and the playing of taps.  Other services may include prayers, the reading of names, ringing of bells and the lighting of candles.

Click here for more the Ahwatukee American Legion Post 64 website.



The Day After Memorial Day Inspiration


At my Toastmaster’s meeting this morning, I missed the opportunity to give an Inspiration after leading the group in the Pledge to the Flag.

Here’s my belated message to the In Ahwatukee Toastmasters club:

Message Text:

Yesterday was Memorial Day.

The Word of the day was Remember.

The Song of the day was Taps.

The Image of the day was a long line of wreaths decorating the gravesites.

The Flower of the day was the red Poppy, blowing in the fields.

The Emotion of the day was too powerful and immense for words.

Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring Americans who died defending our nation and its values.

Yesterday day was Memorial Day.

This day of remembrance is always an emotional one as I visit national or local cemeteries for the annual services and tributes. This year the tears flowed stronger than usual as I listened to the heart-wrenching story of a Gold Star Mom who kept the memory of her son Christopher alive with a moving tribute of love and inspiration.  Tina’s son was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2004 and she shared many joyous memories and touching impacts of his short life.  He and all the others who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country will not be forgotten.

Yesterday was Memorial Day and it was a powerful and moving day for me to remember.

Yesterday was a time to pause, reflect and pay our respect to our nations’ many heroes who have shown us that Freedom is Never Free.


Photo by Steve Smull



The Power of the Poppy

I’ve known for a long time that the power of the poppy was strong and now, based on the events of the past 3 months, I feel that the significance and impact of the fragile, red flower is immense.

One hundred years ago today, 3 May 1915, the “In Flanders Fields” poem was inspired and is an enduring and powerful symbol of the sacrifices made on the battlefield.SmallPoppypillow

In the coming days, I will share with you the story of a former Poppy Queen who paid tribute to her veteran Father and now wishes to honor and remember another Veteran and Father who recently passed away, but not before he proudly watched his daughter be crowned the Poppy Queen of VFW Post 1.

Now I take up the torch and hold it high for all to see so that those who fought so valiantly are not forgotten.


In Flanders Fields 

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.