It’s interesting how a certain event, a sound or image can trigger the senses to a time long forgotten.

A light floral smell can spark memories of Mom dabbing on her favorite perfume. A pounding rain brings back the days of living on the farm under a tin roof. And a red poppy, with its white paper label that honors Veterans and military – especially those who died on the battlefront – reminds Americans to keep alive the memories of those who served.

For the American Legion Auxiliary, a community of volunteers serving Veterans, military and their families, it is most evident on Memorial Day.

womans lapel with red poppy pinned to it

American Legion Auxiliaries across the nation distribute red poppies to remember service members.

The American Legion Auxiliary, a century-old Veteran support organization consisting of the direct descendants and spouses of the military service from Veterans and American Legion members, receives stories year-round from people who share their fond memories of the poppy. From distributing the flowers alongside their grandmothers in exchange for donations, to being on the receiving end and proudly wearing the poppy after making a donation, the fond memories always come back.

“We love it when people contact us about how the poppy has resonated with them,” said Nicole Clapp, American Legion Auxiliary national president. “And though they sometimes tell us sad stories about their fallen service member, the poppy seems to bring comfort by tying together the pride of their loved one’s military service, and the honor and distinction the flower inspires.”

Today’s poppy distributions during social distancing

Before COVID-19, the poppy was a physical reminder, a flower handed out by a volunteer to commemorate those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. And now, during the days of a pandemic, volunteers of Veteran support organizations have gotten creative in their poppy distribution days.

The national headquarters of the American Legion Auxiliary, for example, encouraged volunteers to forge ahead with distributions in their communities while continuing to heed local officials’ COVID-19 precautions. The ALA provided ideas, like drive-thru distributions at Legion post homes and the consideration of hosting a beefed-up poppy event later in the year after restrictions are lifted.

Although Auxiliary members’ methods have changed, 100% of donations received from poppy distributions nationwide goes to help Veterans, service members and their families. Funds are used to provide the essentials when a medical or financial need is evident.

To learn more about poppies, visit

The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of VA.

Veterans have long been part of Stephanie L. Holloway’s life. She is a member of American Legion Auxiliary eUnit 438 in Indianapolis. 

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Published on May. 31, 2021

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