WASHINGTON - Nine Marines from Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., participated in the Flanders Field Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History here Nov. 12.
The Flanders Field Project intends to recreate the poppy fields that blossomed on the war-stricken land of Europe in the aftermath of World War I.
According to Brett McNish, Smithsonian Gardens supervisory horticulturist, after WWI, towns, villages and farm fields of France and Belgium were ground up from years of war. The land, scarred with shell craters, trenches, tunnels, barbed wire, duck boards, pill boxes, poison gas, and corpses, was disastrous for the recovery of the farms and forests of Europe. However, the spring following the war’s end, these devastated areas were ablaze with red, corn poppies.
Since the war, the red poppy flower has become a symbol of remembrance of fallen soldiers.
“This symbolic representation of Flanders Field is a great example of helping to interpret American history through plants,” said McNish in reference to sewing the seeds on the front lawn of the museum. “With the 100th anniversary of WWI occurring next year, our expectation is that these corn poppies sown today will bloom to coincide with the event.”
Marine volunteers from Headquarters & Service Company, Company A, Company B, Guard Company, and Marine Corps Institute Company were part of the planting, hosted by the Smithsonian Gardens.
The Marines were greeted by McNish and his assistants, Erin Clark and Graham Davis. They received a history lesson about the significance of the poppy plant as it relates to the military and WWI. Afterward, they mixed corn poppy seeds with sand and sewed the mixture over the front lawn of the museum.
“The whole project gave us all good insight on general military history in the war that we might not have had,” said Lance Cpl. Samuel Anderson, A Co. ceremonial marcher. “I had a really good time out there.”
After the seeds were sewn, the Marines were thanked for their services and offered a tour of the museum.
“It was interesting to learn about the importance of the poppy plant in the military’s history,” said Pfc. Sonia Santamaria, Barracks fiscal clerk. “As Marines, we need to appreciate and remember our history and those who have gone before us.”