Through the flags; beyond the poppies
This Memorial Day weekend, like many before it, will hold the traditional display of the Avenue of Flags at Prairie Lawn Cemetery north of Peabody.
However, if one can pull their gaze away from the flags with lights and nameplates honoring those that have served in our military, they’ll see another long-standing tradition that oftentimes goes unnoticed.
More than 300 red poppies on white wooden crosses and small flags can be seen at the headstones of those that served.
Seven volunteers and members of Peabody’s American Legion Auxiliary gathered Friday at the Legion Post to replace last year’s poppies, faded by the sun and time, with new ones handmade by veterans.
Many of the volunteers stringing red flowers through foot high crosses have been doing it for years.
For volunteer Didi Porter, putting poppies on crosses has been a family tradition.
“My mom used to do it back in the day,” she said. “It’s been going on forever.”
Crosses that require a little attention get repaired annually.
Wood, who serves as Ladies Auxiliary president, sometimes enlists the help of her partner Todd Henderson. When the white painted crosses began to appear a little dirty, he gave them some attention.
“Todd took them home and cleaned them up and repainted them about three years ago,” Wood said.
Wood said that Jim Middleton makes about six to 10 replacement crosses a year.
The red poppies and their meaning originated with a 1915 poem entitled, “In Flanders Fields,” composed by Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel 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.”
Along with the blank white crosses, are 15 special ones to commemorate those that died during World War I.
“Those are the honor roll,” said vice president Allie Morris. “Those are placed in front of the big monument.”
Bowlby said that getting poppies is becoming more difficult each year.
“They are handmade by veterans who get paid for each one they do,” she said. “A year or two ago, we found out last minute we couldn’t get them in Kansas anymore. We ended up getting them from Wisconsin, they really came through for us.”
This year, there was a lone box of Kansan-made poppies that Morris found in a back room from Lyndon, Kansas.
Last modified May 10, 2018