Area veterans spent their weekend honoring those who have died in service to their county and raising money for veterans assistance programs. At Walmart, veterans collected donations and passed out buddy poppies, a tradition started in 1922 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization. The humble little red flower symbolizes a big message about the true meaning of Memorial Day.
“A lot of people have a misunderstanding of what Memorial Day is for,” said David Shore, commander of the American Legion post in East Bend. “Memorial Day is for those who didn’t come back from war, who lost their lives on the battle field. It’s to remember those who didn’t make it back, the real heroes.”
Donations collected over the weekend will go to aid disabled veterans and other veterans in need of assistance.
“All monies we collect are used only for veterans assistance programs,” said Larry Crews, commander of the Yadkin County VFW post. “It helps veterans pay heating bills, power bills, rent, and even gas money.”
Crews said that during a typical three-day event of handing out buddy poppies, the VFW raises anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500, usually one dollar bill at a time.
“Occasionally somebody will drop a five or a 10 in, but dollar bills work for us or even change,” Crews said. “It’s all going to a good cause.”
VFW members were surprised this weekend by at least one donation of a $100 bill.
Jon Garing of the Elkin VFW post said passing out buddy poppies is important because it “makes people aware of our soldiers past and present.”
“It keeps the awareness that if it wasn’t for our military, we wouldn’t have the freedoms and the luxuries we have today,” Garing said. “And many of us are standing here doing this in respect to the veterans who didn’t make it and also the disabled ones, we are getting donations to help them have a better life.”
The brilliant red shade of the buddy poppy represents “the blood that was spilled on foreign soil,” said Darell Holloway of the Elkin VFW post. He said even those who aren’t able to donate are doing a service by wearing one of the buddy poppies.
“A lot of people thank us for our service and tell us they appreciate us and some people give donations,” Holloway said. “Some people can’t give donations, but they take a flower and they thank us anyhow and that’s alright.”
The buddy poppy program is all about remembering those lost and supporting those veterans who made it home but still struggle with injuries they received in combat, said Jack Gentry of the Elkin VFW post.
“It’s not for us, it’s for others. It’s a service that we do for our veterans, especially those that are disabled, that gave something for their country,” Gentry said. “We do this in honor of them.”
Area veterans and community residents will gather at 10 a.m. today at the flag pole in the Elkin Municipal Park to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the service of their country. Dr. Harold Neighbors will speak and the names of the service men and women who have died in the past year will be read. A wreath will be laid at the flag pole in honor of these fallen veterans.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.