I'm often asked where the ideas for my art come from. And its true--there is always a story behind each creation.
Red Field Poppy History...
The red field poppy is an internationally recognized symbol of remembrance for those who have died in war. The VFW conducted its first poppy distribution before Memorial Day in 1922, becoming the first veterans' organization to organize a nationwide distribution. The “Buddy Poppy” was soon adopted as the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
The VFW Buddy Poppy program has evolved into a program that provides financial assistance to veterans' rehabilitation and service programs, and it also partially supports the VFW National Home For Children.
During World War I, landscapes in fighting zones were destroyed. One American pilot described them as “a brown belt, strips of murdered nature.”
The field poppy’s seeds are scattered by the wind and can lie dormant in the ground for a long time. If the ground is disturbed in early spring, seeds germinate and poppy flowers grow.
This is what happened in parts of the front lines in Belgium and France. The ground was disturbed by fighting, and poppy seeds in the ground germinated and grew during the warm weather in the spring and summer months of 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918.
Decimated battlegrounds turned into stunning fields of poppies; a strong, vibrant symbol of renewal. Which is fitting, as the poppy is known to have been associated with agriculture in the Old World since early times and has always symbolized, been associated with agricultural fertility.
The VFW and Me…
As a child, I remember events where little red poppies were distributed, but I never understood the history or their purpose. As for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), I related the organization to local lodges peppering the country where veterans, those in the military gathered.
In 2015, I began working for VFW in downtown Cleveland. We serve all 88 Ohio Counties and work closely with VA in submitting veterans claims, guiding veterans thru the claims/appeal process, and we represent veterans at hearings.
There is a national Veterans of Foreign Wars structure in Washington D.C. that supports state and international VFW offices, lobbies for veterans programs in the capital, organizes our national accreditation training, and so much more. We attend training in Annapolis, Maryland, several times per year to be qualified to serve as Professionally Trained Accredited Advocates to veterans. Until I started this job, I had no idea any of this existed. It’s been an honor to spend these past couple of years serving those who have served our country.
Being an artist, I created “Poppies” as a tribute to VFW and its longstanding dedication to helping veterans. It's a small thing, but art is my way of expressing myself. "Poppies" is special to me, because this job has shown me a side of military service that I hadn't known existed, and I'm forever changed (for the better) having worked for VFW.
Note: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I, and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. He penned the famous poem “In Flanders Fields.”
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