With COVID-19 changing the way we interact, gather and celebrate, many holidays will look different this year, including Memorial Day. But that doesn’t mean servicemembers, veterans and their families need our support any less.
In fact, several members of the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) are doing their part to protect and honor veterans during the pandemic. Sandy Deacon of ALA Unit 37 in Ames, Iowa, delivered food to an Iowa veterans home along with other ALA members, and Carol Kottom of Unit 270 in Buffalo, Minnesota, has been sewing masks for veterans.
“Our veterans spent part of their lives looking out for us. It’s time we help take care of them. Many are elderly, and for medical reasons, are unable to do things for themselves,” Kottom said about her unit’s efforts. “Whether you are a veteran, military or neighbor, ALA cares about you and wants to make sure you are safe and taken care of.”
This Memorial Day, large services and gatherings will not be possible, but the true meaning of this day lives on through the contributions of veterans and military and in the way we support these heroes throughout the year.
In 2017, the U.S. Congress designated the Friday before Memorial Day as National Poppy Day to honor those who have fought for our freedoms. The poppy is recognized around the world as a memorial flower to honor servicemembers who have died in conflict since World War I, when the poem “In Flanders Fields” was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae in 1915. The poem refers to poppies that covered the graves of soldiers who lost their lives in Belgium and France. Since the ALA’s founding a century ago, the organization has memorialized the blood-red flower by conducting poppy distribution days to collect donations in meeting the needs of U.S. veterans, servicemembers and their families.
This year, the poppy takes on heightened significance. At a time when many Americans are unable to gather for Memorial Day ceremonies and events, a visible symbol of solidarity with veterans can inspire support and serve as a reminder of the important roles our servicemembers play in keeping us safe every day. This year, since ALA members and volunteers can’t distribute poppies in person, here’s how everyone can observe National Poppy Day:
- Share a poppy on your social media pages to spread awareness. You can go to the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters Facebook page (@ALAforVeterans) to find the appropriate graphics, or search for National Poppy Day in Facebook frames.
- The ALA will host a virtual National Poppy Day event via Facebook on May 22 at noon EDT.
- For Memorial Day, The American Legion is hosting a virtual service starting May 22 via their Facebook and Twitter pages.
- If you’d like to be more involved, you can always make a donation to your local American Legion Family.
During these uncertain times, we are all focused on keeping our families healthy and safe. While it may be difficult to celebrate and honor our veterans and military families the ways we did in the past, the poppy reminds us to support these heroes who have devoted their lives to protecting Americans every day.
For more information on how you can volunteer, join or donate to the American Legion Auxiliary, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org.