My dad was a Veteran of the Navy. He had intended to make a career of being aboard ship, there wasn’t much back in the Valley with a hold on him. One time when he was home on Shore Leave, his brother arranged a date with a friend of his girl, which is when Dad and my mother met, and later married.
the Conflict in Korea happened along, and Dad was injured. Medical Discharge put the kabosh on any Navy Career plans. He claimed a 60% Disability the rest of his days. Someday I plan to ask the Veteran Affairs Dept for the papers pertaining to his situation, because details are mixed up, and memories fade.
Back in the Valley he would live and work and raise a family.
Dad had several operations on his left leg, where he was physically wounded, and a couple on his right leg. All the time of favoring his sore leg made the other one weaker. Most of his visits would have been to the Veteran’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, although I remember trips to other hospitals for consultations.
There is a poem about soldiers in a cemetery, which speaks a line about red poppy flowers. That particular bloom has come to be a symbol for Veterans all over.
In the time when my dad was making regular visits to a Veteran’s Hospital, the red poppy flowers were folded of paper by the patients themselves, at least those who had use of their hands. Dad’s injury/latest surgery being on his leg, often in a cast and wheelchair, meant he could use his hands for a long time.
Some of my words may not be historical fact, but my own memory. I suppose I could look up all kinds of details and dates, but I was 16 years old, and what did I know?
I remember being a Volunteer a big room in the hospital probably First Floor, surrounded with guys wearing bandages and casts, and in wheelchairs, such as Dad.
Most were older, veterans of WWII, and Korea. But some were guys not many years ahead of me, back from Viet Nam.
And we were cutting red paper, and trimming wire ends, and packing carefully so all the effort did not smush during transit. Having a 16 year old girl as an assistant was distracting for some old soldiers, but the Leader said I was good for morale.
The boxes of folded flowers, with green wire stems attached, were carried away and sold for donations all over the place, usually on Remembrance Day by members of the Disabled Veterans Auxiliary.
Those silly paper poppy flowers brought in much needed money to keep programs going. Some of the Veterans were permanent residents of the hospital, so programs to help cheer them up are appreciated.
Another time, in my hometown, I helped to fold poppy flowers at the VFW Hall. The lady leader then was amazed that I knew so many shortcuts to help make them pretty.
When my brother David and I were shopping for some flowers to put on Dad’s grave, I went automatically to the bouquet with the poppy flowers. He wanted another, but since I was paying, he said my choice would be fine.
On the way out to the cemetery, as he was driving, I told the story of my teenage times and how I had helped fold about a gazillion red papers into flowers for Veteran’s Day.
There is more than years between the oldest and youngest of Dad’s offspring. It is so sad that Dad died when the kid was only 14 years old, but we make the best of it.
Driving across half the mid-West on Memorial Day to get back to my house on the prairie, I listened to radio announcements about patriotic events in small towns.
At one Rest Area, there were old soldiers with fake poppy flowers, asking for donations in a can. I dropped in a dollar coin, but did not accept a flower. The ones given out today are not folded by hand, nor made of paper. They look like the fabric petals come off an assembly belt, much the way the poppy flowers in that bouquet in the picture.
Good intentions will have to be enough. David was pleased that the cemetery staff had already put a small American flag on the graves of all Veterans. It must take them days to set ’em out, then pull them in again ready to mow.
~~love and Huggs, Diane
related links: Decrepit Old Fool, Memorial Day 2011