BELLEVILLE, NJ — American Legion Post 105 and Sons of the American Legion Squadron 105 distributed poppies during Memorial Day Weekend at the ShopRite on Washington Avenue, raising thousands of dollars to go directly to the organizations’ programs supporting veterans in need.
As does almost every veterans organization in the country, Post and Squadron 105 hand out the familiar red crepe poppy flowers to shoppers over Memorial Day weekend, a program which has been in existence since 1921. The poppy program, which has its cornerstone as National Poppy Day, always the Friday before Memorial Day, finds its origins in World War I and the poem “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae. That famous poem starts, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses row on row, / That mark our place …”
After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe — scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From that dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. The red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during battle, not only during World War I, but in every engagement since. The paper poppy is handed out with a tag that reads “In Memoriam,” standing for every service member who has been killed in the service of their country.
But the program, aside from serving as a reminder of our killed-in-action service members, is meant to raise money that goes to veterans in need. The community is asked to wear the poppy and donate what they can to “Honor the fallen and support the living.” Belleville always answers the call. “We are always amazed by the generosity of the community,” SAL Commander Steve Sangemino said.
From May 25 to 31, Legionnaires and Sons stood in three-hour shifts outside of the ShopRite with poppies and donation cans. To remind shoppers of what Memorial Day is really all about, SAL members Steve Mercier and Bob “Boog” Lynch stood post Memorial Day morning distributing the flowers, while the rest of the Post attended Belleville’s Memorial Day remembrances.
Photos Courtesy of SAL Squadron 105