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By Major Mike Dryden AVN USAR Retired
Senior Voice Correspondent 

Traditions originated from veterans' need, grief

Alaska Older Veterans Report


Older Persons Action Group and Senior Voice Alaska recognizes and honors veterans every day for their service to our nation. But on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11, special thanks are needed. A reprint from the VFW’s website on the origin of the well-known red poppy is in order for this edition.

Buddy Poppy

The VFW conducted its first poppy distribution before Memorial Day in 1922, becoming the first veterans’ organization to organize a nationwide distribution. The poppy soon was adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

During the 1923 encampment, the VFW decided that VFW “Buddy”® Poppies would be assembled by disabled and veterans in need, who would be paid for their work to provide them with financial assistance. The next year, disabled veterans at the Buddy Poppy factory in Pittsburgh assembled VFW Buddy Poppies. The designation “Buddy Poppy” was adopted at that time.

In February 1924, the VFW registered the name Buddy Poppy with the U.S. Patent Office. A certificate 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 has made that trademark a guarantee that all poppies bearing that name and the VFW label are genuine products of the work of disabled and veterans in need. No other organization, firm or individual can legally use the name Buddy Poppy.

Today, VFW Buddy Poppies are still assembled by disabled and veterans in need in VA Hospitals. The VFW Buddy Poppy program provides compensation to the veterans who assemble the poppies, provides financial assistance in maintaining state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs and partially supports the VFW National Home For Children.

Reprinted from

World War I casualty inspires famous poem

During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on May 2, 1915, in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.

As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”. (Copyright ©

The death of his friend was the inspiration for this famous poem:

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae  

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.

For all veterans, young and old, their families and friends and a grateful nation, SALUTE. We are the fabric that binds this nation and I, for one, am grateful and humbled to have been a part of the military.

A public ceremony for the observance of Veterans Day will be hosted by the Alaska Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Alaska National Guard at JBER on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 from 1030 to 1200.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.


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