More than a flower, Buddy Poppies provide support for local veterans

fr_poppy2Once a year, Memorial Day provides Americans a time to reflect on ideals like freedom, unity and bravery.

Before the nation remembers on May 27 the countless military members who sacrificed more than just a moment of their lives, two local veterans organizations are lobbying for Isanti County residents’ support to generate community pride for veterans who can be found in their neighborhoods and on the sidewalks they frequent every day.

The Isanti VFW and Ladies Auxiliary will hit the streets Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, to distribute the official Veterans of Foreign Wars memorial flower, the poppy.

Post 2735 Junior Vice Cmdr. Wayne Carlson has been a member of the Isanti VFW for nine years. This is his first year as chairman for the annual Buddy Poppy Program.

“We want to show solidarity with our veterans,” said Carlson, who comes from a family with a strong military background. This includes his son, Wade, who is presently serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. For his service during the Cold War, Carlson was bestowed the honor of the Navy Expeditionary Medal.

He said that although no financial contributions are necessary to receive a poppy, they are appreciated.

“We survive on donations,” Carlson said. “We’d like to see more money come in than we paid out. That’s our goal.”

Since the first Buddy Poppy campaign in 1922, the VFW began paying disabled and hospitalized veterans to assemble synthetic poppies. These poppies are then shipped to VFW posts and ladies auxiliaries

nationwide that purchase boxes of poppies to raise charitable support and respect for veterans.

All funds raised from the Buddy Poppy Program of the Isanti VFW and Ladies Auxiliary stay local to help veterans and their dependents. Therefore any money raised from the community goes back into it.

As of recently, proceeds from the Buddy Poppy Program have been donated to the Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program uses the donations to help military veterans and their families when there is a financial need.

Assistance may involve helping a veteran who is behind on their car payment or paying for transportation to take a veteran to a Veterans Affairs hospital for treatment.

“Monthly we identify if there are any veterans in distress,” Carlson said. “We have members that are passed away that their wives or their children have come to us and asked us to do things. … We do what we can.”

Some funds are also given to programs like the Wounded Warrior Project and Patriot’s Pens, which further support the well-being of veterans and their families.

Carlson said the reason he and his peers will be crusading over the weekend is first and foremost to gain acknowledgement for veterans.

“Now that the Iraqi veterans (and others) are coming home, they are looked at as heroes,” he said, “which is only right.”

The VFW has been instrumental through the years in garnishing support for veterans, heroes as many would refer to them, with legislation like the GI Bill, the existence of VA hospitals and the ability of veterans to receive retirement for service.

The Buddy Poppy Program is outlet in which supporters can continue to honor the welfare of former and current military members.

With little, red poppies in hand, Carlson and his associates will extend their support of veterans, asking that others extend theirs in return.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to do this for our veterans,” Carlson said. “We want you to show your support and show it proudly.”