The Poppy: A Symbol of Memorial Day
by Jillian Decker, Director of Development
The wearing of poppies in honor of America’s war dead is traditionally done on Memorial Day. The practice of wearing of poppies was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by Canadian soldier John McCrae. McCrae was a poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1915. McCrae’s friend Lt. Alexis Helmer was killed during the battle and his burial inspired the poem which was written on May 3, 1915. McCrae saw the poppies during burials around his artillery position.
“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.”
– John McCrae, May 1915
Jennifer LaScala, ceramics visual arts teacher at Sayreville War Memorial High School in Parlin, NJ had her students create ceramic poppy flowers to honor our Veterans. She reached out to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation to install the flowers on the Memorial grounds for Memorial Day, in a space where they would be appreciated and would honor the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Ms. LaScala’s students created nearly 200 ceramic poppies that sit at the base of the armed forces flags at the Memorial’s outer wall. Sayreville is joined by the art teachers of Northern Burlington County Regional High School, Burlington High School, New Brunswick High School, and Middlesex High School, placing about 320 poppies on the site for Memorial Day.
The poppies installation will remain until teachers collect them on Tuesday, May 28. Students, families, and the community are invited to join the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation on Monday, May 27th for our Memorial Day Ceremony starting at 11:00AM. The Vietnam Era Museum and Education Center will remain open following the ceremony until 2:00PM.