PITTSBURG — With red poppies in her hair and in hand, Carolyn Norton gave away paper poppies to show support for veterans and honor fallen soldiers on Friday outside of Walmart Neighborhood Market.
The poppies were red, which symbolizes the “blood shed protecting our freedom” stemming from the poem “In Flanders Fields”, Cheryl Eastep-Munson said.
“It is the national symbol of sacrifice,” she said.

Eastep-Munson and Norton are members of the Betty Lou Vilmer American Legion Post 394 Auxiliary.  For National Poppy Day, their group along with several veterans stood outside the Walmart and Ron’s Supermarket on Friday and Saturday to hand out poppies as customers walked in and out the door.

National Poppy Day is celebrated the Friday before Memorial Day.
“It has been a long standing tradition to hand out poppies in remembrance of our soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for us,” Eastep-Munson said. “These poppies are actually made by disabled veterans and we hand them out.
“We don't sell them but donations are appreciated as the money goes directly back to helping our veterans.”

Eastep-Munson’s husband, Robert Munson, retired Commanding Master Chief of the United States Navy, joined in on the poppy distribution at Walmart.
“We cannot thank the auxiliary enough for what they do for us,” he said. “These poppies are the most important thing of the year.
“It brings the military and civilians together and we want to let people know we are strong and will keep going strong.”

Over at Ron’s more auxiliary and post members Debbie Loy (U.S. Navy), Coco Hetz  (U.S. Navy) and Charlianne Jones (U.S. Army) handed out the flowers right inside the store entrance.
“We’ve had a wonderful response,” Hetz said.

Along with the poppies, they also gave out the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Lt. Colonel John McCrae:
“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.”

After World War I poppies grew across the fields in France and Belgium, Loy said. According to the ALA website the growth was attributed to the rubble left by the war.

American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Facts
• One hundred percent of the donations received go exclusively to support active duty military, veterans and their families.     
• Veterans handcraft each flower to earn a small wage to supplement their income and in turn the physical and mental activity is therapeutic for them.
• The American Legion Auxiliary is the world's largest women's patriotic service organization to honor veterans and military.
• More information on National Poppy Day and American Legion Auxiliary can be found at www.ALAforVeterans.org.