Poppies represent, provide possibilities for veterans

Hospitalized veterans craft crepe paper flowers
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn group is glad to help keep the memories of veterans who have passed away alive while also helping those who are still with us. Auburn’s American Legion Auxiliary Post 84 is planning to give out crepe paper poppies on Friday and Saturday at the Raley’s Bel Air on Grass Valley Highway to celebrate May being Poppy Month and National Poppy Week, which is May 15-21. The flowers are free but donations are accepted. “We hand out the poppies to remember and honor our departed veterans and then help the living veterans,” said Auburn resident Betty Crouson, poppy chairwoman for the Auxiliary. “The proceeds we get are only to be used for assisting disabled veterans and their families.” Part of the donated proceeds go to the organization Operation Comfort, which offers rehabilitative services to wounded servicemen and women. The rest of the proceeds go toward Ride 2 Recovery, which helps aid in the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers through bicycle riding. The history of the poppy as a symbol for veterans started at the beginning of the 20th century, Crouson said. “It started after World War I when the soldiers who were returning home from the war remembered after all the devastation they saw in Europe … the poppies growing there,” she said. In 1921 the American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as its memorial flower. In 1924 the organization started the National Poppy Program to protect the poppy from becoming commercialized, according to Auxiliary documents. Crouson said disabled and hospitalized veterans around the country make the poppies every year. Auburn resident Bonnie Chavoya, president of the American Legion Auxiliary Post 84, said she thinks it’s important to honor those who give their country so much. “They are so important to us,” Chavoya said. “For them to volunteer their lives, and put their families second and the United States first means a lot.” Auburn resident Bonnie Bradbury, vice president of Auxiliary Post 84, said her personal experience of being a military wife for decades gives special meaning to the poppy program. “Just seeing the many military bases, the many places in different countries that are free because of our interference with the problems that happen that take away from people’s freedom (makes me want to be involved),” Bradbury said. Auburn resident Gene Freeland, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, has a long history of military service in his family and said Memorial Day, which falls in May, has always meant something to him because his father was born on that day. Freeland said he thinks the poppy program is significant because the community should try to remember its history, including the various wars our citizens have fought in. Auburn resident Court Bradbury, who served in the Navy and Army for a total of 22 years, including time in Vietnam, said the poppy fits perfectly with the message of May, which really revolves around Memorial Day. “Memorial Day is what is near and dear to my heart, remembering all the men and women who gave their lives so we are free, and the poppy is just a symbol of it,” Court Bradbury said. Auburn resident Terry Crouson, who served in the Marine Corps and Army Reserves for 26 years, had a brother killed in action in Vietnam. Crouson said the poppy program is a way to offer new life to veterans who have been severely wounded in war. “It’s just a way of helping out the disabled veterans in hospitals,” Terry Crouson said. “They are people you don’t see unless you go there. When you go there you are shocked at what you see.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------- With President Barack Obama affirming Sunday night that United States Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, local veterans gave their opinions about the death Monday. Auburn resident Gene Freeland, an Army veteran, said the event offers some closure. “I’m joyful that whether he was killed or captured, his saga is over,” Freeland said. “We are finally closing that door on what happened a little less than 10 years ago.” Auburn resident Court Bradbury, who served in the Navy and Army for 22 years, said hopefully bin Laden’s death will offer solace to the families who lost loved ones during the 9/11 attacks. “It’s long overdue,” Bradbury said. “I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference or not, but it does help the families who lost their friends and loved ones in the Twin Towers and on the planes.” Auburn resident Terry Crouson, a Marine Corps and Army Reserves veteran, also said the death is long overdue. “I’m glad he is gone,” Crouson said. “There is a time to be kind and there is a time to be on your feet defending, and he needed to be taken out a long time ago. He has cost us a lot of lives, and I think he will continue to cost us some.” ~Bridget Jones