Poppy Launch Honors Veterans Lost at Sea

There are many traditions that families and veterans observe on Memorial Day. One of the more popular events sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary took place off Tybee Island this morning.

Two thousand red paper poppies were strung together to make an anchor. For close to a century, the poppies have held special meaning to veterans.

"It's an honor for all the vets that died at sea and it is just our way of honoring them on Memorial Day for everyone," said chairperson Betty Wheeler.

The poppy tradition began in Paris shortly after World War I. Savannah began making a poppy anchor in 1919.

Every year, local veterans and their families climb aboard a boat and head out to sea. After a short prayer, they release the anchor. The red flowers float away, symbolizing the blood of military men and women who lost their lives for our freedom.

"It's really touching to me, because my husband was a vet, my son retired from the Navy and my other son retired from the Army," said Wheeler.

Some of the people at this Memorial Day launch come year after year. It's a small, unique event they just wouldn't miss. "It does get a little sentimental, brings back memories of the ones that were lost over there, and I just thank the lord I was one of the ones who came back home," said World War II vet Tom Hutchinson.

Members of the auxiliary group also made hundreds of extra paper poppies that they mailed to veterans who could not attend today's event.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com