2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and plans are well underway to celebrate this milestone here in Miami County. A group called Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering is planning to construct a poppy field at the Miami County Courthouse lawn in honor of the men and women of Miami County who served during the war.
Why a poppy field? Perhaps in school, you remember reading the poem “In Flanders Field” that was written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae during the First World War?
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.
-In Flanders Fields by John McCrae
McCrae was inspired to write this poem on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. McCrae noted how poppies quickly grew around the graves of those who died at Ypres. The next day, he composed the poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance at an Advanced Dressing Station outside Ypres.
The poem is the most popular and most quoted poem from that war. Its’ references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in a war.
Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering’s project will stand on the courthouse lawn from November 4 through November 11, 2018. Their project has been endorsed by the Indiana World War I Centennial Commission. The project will conclude with a special ceremony at the Court House at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 11, 2018. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 marked the official start of the armistice agreement that ended WW I in Europe.
Alexandria Blong from The Potter's Bench, located at 25 W. 3rd Street in Peru, along with Regine Brindle are coordinating the program and have been working with schools, community organizations as well as interested adults in making the more than 1000 long stemmed poppies that will be displayed at the Courthouse.
According to Regine Brindle, the Miami County Worth Remembering organization was started last year and the group chose to focus first on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Initially the group was given a list of 400 names of individuals from Miami County who had served in the war. The group started to do some research and quickly discovered that list was wrong. Turns out there were over 1,800 mem and women from Miami County who served during the war.
“There is a plaque on the Court House lawn with eighteen names for “Gold Stars” which represent the men (from Miami County) who died in World War I,” said Brindle. “It’s actually missing twelve names. Ten of those have been recognized in surrounding counties but two of them are missing altogether”
Brindle continued “What was really interesting for me is that one of these men is actually buried in Flanders Field in Belgium. So, I contacted the person in Belgium who takes care of that cemetery and as we researched together he sent me a little poppy and I thought this is really cool. We should do something like this for the courthouse lawn.”
At that point, the group asked Ms. Blong at The Potter's Bench for help in making thirty Poppies for the Gold Star Veterans who died during the war.
“As I explained the process to her and what we were looking at, she had a vision that was much bigger than the thirty poppies for the Gold Starts,” said Brindle. “She felt like it could be a community project that could involve all the children”
Ms. Blong remembered going to the bicentennial event at the Court House and signing the Constitution. She thought they could have something similar with the poppies.
“We are looking at making 1,000 now but it turns out we may have enough clay to make more,” said Brindle.
“We’re going to start putting them in the ground the week before November 11th,” according to Ms. Blong. “We’re hoping that some of the groups that did not get to make them will at least be able to help place them on the lawn.”
The group has a Facebook page and they have been posting events that took place 100 years ago. You can visit their page by clicking HERE.
If your group or organization would be interested in helping to make the poppies, you can contact Alexandria Blong at The Potter's Bench 765-472-2597. You can also contact her at Peru High School Fine Art Gallery on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 765-475-2421.
Ms. Blong reports that she will schedule a time with the group and meet them at their location with all the supplies necessary to make the poppies.
You can also participate individually during the Second Saturday Event in June 9, 2018, from 5 to 9 p.m.
The group is also seeking donations. Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering is a registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and financial gifts are tax deductible. If you would like to contribute, you can contact Ms. Blong. They also accept donations of supplies and are especially in need of copy paper boxes and newspapers that can be used for packing the poppies.
Below are photos from the Miami County Indiana Worth Remembering page taken at events where children have made poppies for the event.