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Auxiliary set to honor the fallen

By LAAH TUCKER

Special to The Hays Daily News

NATOMA -- Connecting the visual image of the poppy with the sacrificial service of United States veterans has been an important goal of the American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Program since its inception in 1921. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, millions of red crepe paper poppies are distributed across the nation in exchange for donations. Each red poppy is hand-crafted by veterans as part of their therapeutic rehabilitation. Each penny raised through the program goes directly to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans.

The American Legion Auxiliary, Natoma Unit No. 109, continues to raise community awareness for veterans through the Poppy Program, Memorial Day services and Veterans Day Musical Salute. Its programs honor veterans by educating the public about traditions, including the symbol of the red poppy from the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," written in 1921 on the battlefront of Normandy by Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D.

The Poppy Program is one of the oldest and most widely recognized programs of the American Legion Auxiliary. Natoma Unit No. 109 joins millions of devoted Americans across the country in distribution of the memorial flower to the public. Donation cans will be available throughout Kansas through auxiliary units. American flags will be placed at each veteran's grave prior to the services.

Memorial Day services will be at four cemeteries by Natoma Auxiliary Unit No. 109: Natoma Catholic, 9:30 a.m.; Immanuel Lutheran, 10 a.m.; Paradise, 10:30 a.m.,; and Natoma, 11 a.m. The program will include a prayer and message by Pastor Michael Schmidt, Peace Lutheran; Pledge of Allegiance, Linda Crawford; memorial names of each veteran recited by Chaplain Shawna Dunlap and Crawford; dropping of poppies by Callie Dunlap and Alyvia Zeigler; patriotic music by Bonnie Schamberger; 21-gun salute by American Legion Post No. 109; and the playing of taps by Natoma High School students Doran Griffin and Conner Winter.

A patriotic pause will be observed at 3 p.m. Memorial Day. In December 2000, Congress passed a law requiring Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time each Memorial Day to remember and honor the fallen.

At noon, following the cemetery services, American Legion Auxiliary will host the annual Memorial Day dinner at the American Legion Hall in Natoma. Traditional beef and noodles with dessert will be served. For information, call (785) 885-4116.

Laah Tucker is American Legion Auxiliary, Natoma Unit No. 109, president.