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What's the significance of red poppies on Memorial Day?

The poppy is known as the "Flower of Remembrance".
Credit: Getty Images
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 25: A poppy is laid on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior during the ANZAC Dawn Ceremony at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on April 25, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand. New Zealanders are celebrating the centenary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) landing on the shores of Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, during World War 1. Anzac day is a national holiday in New Zealand and Australia, marked by a dawn service held during the time of the original Gallipoli landing and commemorated with ceremonies and parades throughout the day. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Memorial Day 2019

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Posted by Wounded Warrior Project on Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day is a day meant for remembering and honoring those who have given their lives for our country. You may see red poppies being worn in association with this day.

Here's why:

The poppy has been used as a remembrance symbol since World War I. As the History Channel documents, WWI took the lives of millions of soldiers who died either in battle or of disease.  The conflict also devastated the landscape of western Europe; amid the damage the poppies grew.

This sight of growth paired with the 1915 poem "In Flanders Fields," written by John McCrae, has been the inspiration for remembrance using poppies.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the poem was first published in a British magazine called "Punch."  

Two women picked up on the poem and its significance and turned the message into an opportunity to help those who were financially or otherwise impacted by the war. They made fake poppies for these people to sell.

The flower became known as the "Flower of Remembrance."

If you're looking to visit the Rock Island National Cemetery, please note: 

Access is restricted for Memorial Day weekend. Only groups of six are allowed per car, and groups of no more than 10 people are allowed on Arsenal Island. All visitors must use the Moline gate; anyone 16 and older must have a valid ID. Visiting hours are from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. through Monday.

Visitors are welcome to adorn the graves of their loved ones with flags and flowers.  Visitors can "Adopt a Troop" and mark a grave of their choosing as well.