Remembering the forgotten war

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, December 14, 2017

In honor of the centennial commemoration of World War I, the state of Kentucky has adopted a rather unique method for individuals to honor the fallen heroes of this all but forgotten war. This is a project which Bell County has taken full advantage of, as they have already contributed more to the cause than any other county in the state, an accomplishment that can be almost fully credited to the Bell County School District.

“Sadly, little to nothing is remembered of World War I since it happened so long ago, but it still played a very crucial role in forming the world we live in today. Therefore, as a way to teach the history of the war, as well as honor the veterans who served, the Kentucky Poppy Project was created,” said 2000’s Miss America, Heather French Henry, who dedicates a great portion of her time to projects such as this one.

This great war proved to be a very dark period in history; however, throughout all of the chaos, one simple flower become a beacon of hope during a seemingly hopeless time: the papaver rhoeas, commonly referred to as the poppy.

Due to the turmoil brought forth by the war, Western Europe’s once beautiful countrysides were left utterly demolished, except for these flowers, which managed to withstand all of the destruction and flourish greatly due to their resilient nature. Soon, they inspired the now-famous poem titled In Flanders Fields, and eventually went on to cause something of an epidemic, as everyone desired to have one of these beautiful red inspirations.

Millions of poppies were sold across the world, with the proceeds going to the soldiers, providing them with both housing and employment. Because of this, the poppy has become the perfect symbol of remembrance for all who bravely risked their lives during the war.

The project encourages people across the state to show their appreciation of those who participated in the war by creating their own artificial poppy flower in their remembrance. It was first inspired by Australia’s 5,000 Poppy Project, in which a group of women from across the country collected over 300,000 poppies in commemoration of their own World War I veterans.

The state began working on the commemoration earlier this year and will continue until the year 2019, when the organization behind the project plans to line Kentucky’s Capitol Building with each poppy obtained throughout the two years, fully displaying the state’s honor and admiration for the 84,000 veterans who left the Commonwealth to fight among many other brave soldiers the First World War.

The idea to become a part of the cause was first introduced to the district by Jennifer Yankey, an Instructional Supervisor who immediately spearheaded the project to both students and teachers upon learning about it through a weekly Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner’s message.

After being assured that everyone was on board, Yankey then developed a timeline for their contributions, and even went as far as to set up a visit from Henry, the former Miss America behind the project.

A program featuring a testimony from the Henry herself was held on Monday, in which the district proudly displayed each of the 3,000 poppies collected so far. During this program, Henry presented Yankey with a special Challenge Coin in celebration of all of the service she has provided for the cause.

“The project is something that our schools and students should be proud of. This helps honor veterans, instill pride and patriotism into our students and provide them with a real audience for their creations,” said Yankey.

Considering that each county within the state contained both men and women who contributed to the war, it seems quite fitting that something is done to honor their bravery. Anyone wishing to partake in the commemoration, whether as an organization or simply as an individual, is more than welcome to do so and should visit the project’s website to learn more.

“This is one of the most fun projects created to honor veterans that I’ve been a part of, because it involves everyone. Almost everyone has a veteran somewhere in their family, especially throughout Kentucky,” said Henry.