‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow’
The opening line of the poem dedicated to service members that died in France during World War I and inspired the VFW’s international Buddy Poppy program.
“That was started back in 1922, the VFW started distributing those. The idea was that disabled and needy veterans from WWI could earn some money by putting together these little paper flowers. And then they would give them to the VFW, to give to people in return for donations to help support needy veterans,” said VFW Post 3873 Commander Bob Bronson.
In Naperville, the poppies are plentiful as veterans distribute them throughout the community every Memorial Day weekend.
“We distributed almost 15,000 poppies last year, and donations from the community were just about $20,000 which is just amazing. The Naperville community is really generous. When they see veterans out there distributing poppies, no one turns us down,” said Bronson.
And all of those donations help local veterans.
“Donations that we get from the Naperville community, they go right back into helping veterans, most of it goes into what we call our ‘Post Relief Fund’ here,” said Bronson.
One of the poppy volunteers is Joseph Marinello, a World War II veteran who enjoys distributing the poppies each year.
“Interfacing with the people, everybody’s had somebody in the service at some point in time and it’s very rewarding,” said Marinello.
While the poppies are only distributed locally around Memorial Day, their message is one that endures all year.
“The message is in remembrance of those that have died to keep our freedom. And even though the poppy program started after World War I, we have veterans coming home that are in need, and that’s what the Buddy Poppy program represents, veterans helping veterans,” said Bronson.
The City declared the week of May 23 to 30, 2016 as VFW Buddy Poppy Week in Naperville.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
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