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

Remembering Armistice Day and Our Veterans

The red poppies are blowing today as the world marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice (11/11/18).


As I watch French, German, American and other world leaders come together in Paris to pay their respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their countries, I am thankful that veterans are being remembered and appreciated for their service.

An American Legion magazine is spread open on the kitchen table and a poignant photo of a WWII veteran is calling to me.  He is all bundled up in gloves and a blanket and is holding a small US flag in one hand and a hand written sign in another.  The sign reads, “Thanks for Remembering”.

In the end, that’s all most veterans really want- to be appreciated and remembered.

So on this important day, Veterans Day in the United States and Remembrance/Armistice Day in Canada, Australia and many nations in Western Europe, it is my hope that as citizens of the world we can set aside our political differences and reflect on the positive impacts that countless servicemen and women have made all over the world.

There are over 20 million living veterans in the United States, representing almost 10% of the population.  If you don’t know someone who has served in the military, I encourage you to find out more by supporting your local VFW or American Legion posts.

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Marching in a Veterans Day Parade in Denver. Photo by Steve Smull

This Veterans Day is a very special Remembrance Day as we celebrate the centennial of the end of the First World War.

I proudly wear my red poppy to acknowledge the sacrifices made by those died on the battlefield.  I humbly pick up and carry the torch for those who came before me, knowing that they would say, “Thanks for Remembering!”

Happy Veterans Day America


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.