I Dare Say -- Poppies grow in Tunisia (5-14-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (May 14, 1943)


Poppies grow in Tunisia

By Florence Fisher Parry

Blue star on a white field with a border of blood.

Yes, and gold star too.

They’ll soon be taking down the little flag with its bright blue star, and putting the other one in its place. Walk along any street, presently, and count the windows in which will hang this flag. Then you will know the real cost of this war even in victory.

But these flags with their blue stars and gold will not tell the whole story. For there is no flag to mark that other casualty, so much crueler than death: the casualty of the maimed in body and mind, the casualty of the living doomed, even now being returned to us.

Yet this is the saddest penalty of all. The costliest, the most hopeless. It cannot be computed. It grows. It never ends. Its consequences stretch drearily into the future, affecting generations. It is such a fearful prospect that the most seasoned statistician cannot brace himself to the terrible task of computing its loss to humankind.

We forget

It is a human attribute, I know. But WE FORGET. We grow indifferent. We mean to remember to be patient and compassionate and generous and helpful to the living dead who are returned to us after our wars. But we don’t. There are so many other things…

Now we are saying to each other with great earnestness: When they return, we will provide for them, they will be our first consideration. Make way for them, industry, give them back their jobs! Never mind if they have lost their old facility, never mind if the shock of combat, the dreariness of prison camp, the deadly regimented processes of war have dulled and slowed them! We will wait and be patient. We will take care of them – first.

We said this in the last war, remember? Oh, we tried – we really tried. But it didn’t work. It was found not to be “practical.” Business and industry couldn’t afford its cost to them, in efficiency.

Do you remember how it was after the last war? I do. No wonder the great epidemic of DEBUNKING overran the minds of the veterans of the war, and that they embraced the bitter thought that it had all been for nothing, nothing, and relapsed into the fatal isolation philosophy that later nearly cost democracy its life.

IT CAN’T HAPPEN this time! It must not happen again. We know now that the living casualties of the war will be many times the number returned to us in 1918. We know that hospitals will be built in ever-increasing numbers to take care of them; that the call upon our resources will be overwhelmingly great. We know that the therapy administered after the last war is as nothing compared with what it must be now, and that we must somehow provide new quick restorative measures to salvage the broken bodies and minds of the returned casualties.

New poppy fields

That is why this year’s Poppy Day is different from all that have been held in the past. The others were held in commemoration of the LAST war. This one is ushering in the NEW task that THIS war imposes upon us. It is therefore the most important Poppy Day we have ever observed. It assumes a double significance. It sends out a double call. It invites a double response. While in no way relinquishing its original task, that of providing help for the veterans of World War I, it is taking on such a prodigious new work that it challenges the imagination to its farthest reach!

Its observance must be magnificent, and shared by everyone.

So, day be bright in Saturday – tomorrow! Sun, shine! Winds, blow mild and gentle! Poppies, turn up your bright red faces to clear skies and open hearts, let the response match the valor and reminder of your brave small blossom.

For the poppies are blowing again over new graves in Africa, over hundreds of mounds covering still young bodies that yesterday throbbed with life. They have a way of sweeping over battlefields… in Flanders Field… in Tunisia… they have become the blossom of blood and valor.

So, I think they will look brighter and braver this year, on the street corners of Pittsburgh; I think they will be seen by every passing eye. It is unthinkable that anyone could pass by a poppy this year. For it is bound to remind us of the fields where it grows, under the trampling feet of Nazi prisoners, and on the new fresh mounds where fell our boys.

In Flanders Field the poppies blow…

In Tunis and Bizerte…

Buy a poppy, put it in your buttonhole. It is a drop of blood spilled for you.


She was correct in predicting that Americans would forget the living casualties from the war. The same has occurred after the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War. Politicians said we would help and care for our wounded. The reality was veterans were forgotten and the Veterans Department did not provide the long-term medical care promised.