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Durango Buddy Poppy Days fundraising drive kicks off Friday morning

Proceeds to benefit veterans in need and children’s programs
The color guard stands ready during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Iris Park in 2022. (Durango Herald file)

In the lead-up to Memorial Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 in Durango is planning its annual distribution of buddy poppies, bright red artificial flowers that have been the official memorial flower of the VFW since 1922.

Melinda Michael, a senior officer at the VFW in Durango, received a proclamation from the city of Durango at the last City Council meeting proclaiming May 26-29 as Durango Buddy Poppy Days. She said on Friday and Saturday, residents can pick up buddy poppies to wear on their shirts at businesses around the community as well as the VFW and American Legion Post 28.

She said many ceremonies to honor the fallen are scheduled for Memorial Day on Monday. Speeches will be conducted at Greenmount Cemetery and Iris Park at 1235 Camino del Rio.

“We’ll be tossing the Lost at Sea (wreath) – I’m from the Navy, so that’s special to me – (from) the bridge at Rotary Park into the water,” she said.

A wreath was set adrift in the Dolores River to commemorate soldiers lost as sea during a Memorial Day ceremony in 2021. (Durango Herald file)

Durango Buddy Poppy Days start at 8 a.m. Friday with a poppy drive. The proceeds generated from the fundraiser will exclusively benefit disabled and needy veterans, widows and orphans of deceased veterans, and children programs such as Bicycle Safety Week and school scholarship programs, according to the city’s proclamation.

VFW Commander Mike Benton, who retired from the U.S. Army, said the following businesses are participating in the buddy poppy drive in Durango and La Plata County:

  • Albertsons
  • City Market (north and south locations)
  • Farmers Fresh (Ignacio)
  • Kroegers Ace
  • Lewis Mercantile (Bayfield)
  • Natures Oasis
  • PJs
  • Tractor Supply
  • Walmart

Mayor Melissa Youssef, who read the proclamation, said, “the officers and members of VFW Post 4031 urge all patriotic citizens to wear a buddy poppy as mute evidence of our gratitude to the men and women of this community who have risked their lives in defense of the freedoms which we continue to enjoy as American citizens.”

The events leading up to and on Memorial Day are intended to be fun and educational in addition to honoring the men and women who died at war, a calendar on the VFW’s website says.

Veterans’ reflections are caught by the Veterans Memorial at Greenmount Cemetery during the Memorial Day ceremony in 2016. (Durango Herald file)

The events the VFW is participating in start Friday and go through Memorial Day. They are:

  • Friday and Saturday: VFW Buddy Poppy Drive at various locations in La Plata County.
  • Friday-Monday: Healing Field at Santa Rita Park, sponsored by the Blue Star Mothers. Opening ceremony starts at 6 a.m. Friday. A lighting ceremony is scheduled for later in the day. The closing ceremony is scheduled for Monday.
  • Saturday: Iron Horse Bicycle Classic train ride to Silverton.
  • Saturday: Flag placement on veterans’ graves will begin at 10 a.m. at Greenmount Cemetery.
  • 10 a.m. Monday: A Vietnam Veteran Remembrance Ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at Iris Park.
  • 11 a.m. Monday: A Veterans Memorial Remembrance Ceremony starts at 11 a.m. at Greenmount Cemetery.
  • Noon Monday: A Veterans Lost at Sea Remembrance Ceremony is scheduled at Rotary Park.
  • Monday afternoon: From noon to 3 p.m., the VFW is hosting an open house for the general public at its post at 1550 Main Ave.
  • Monday evening: The American Legion is hosting an open house at 878 East Second Ave. with music by Zach Stevenson.


A previous version of this story misidentified VFW Commander Mike Benton as a former U.S. Army commander. He was a non-commissioned officer in the Army during his service.

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