VFW Post 30 in Blue Springs has united poppies with raising money for needy veterans in the Blue Springs and Kansas City area for 15 years.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row...”
Those haunting opening words from the poem “In Flanders Fields” have forever united poppies and veterans.
VFW Post 30 in Blue Springs has united poppies with raising money for needy veterans in the Blue Springs and Kansas City area for 15 years.
“Our goal is to inform the public to make sure the public understands, and the majority do, that military members have died so they can have the freedom to enjoy,” said Buddy Poppy chairman, Chuck Rikli. “This is a symbol of that...that’s our goal.”
Every weekend before Memorial and Veteran’s Day, you can find Rikli and other Post 30 and Ladies Auxiliary members and JROTC students from Blue Springs High School in front of Hy-Vee off U.S. 40 and Ace Hardware at south Missouri 7 giving out poppies as a part of the Buddy Poppy Program.
“The reason we picked those times is because we wanted to help citizens remember the sacrifices over the many years,” Rikli said. “I hope, No. 1, that it remains in Americans minds a couple times a year on these holidays that they need to remember sacrifices by military people who many times gave their life so our country could remain strong and free. It adds a patriotic flavor to everyone’s weekend.”
That flavor has helped add $10,000 to the VFW’s cause over 15 years.
 “All I do is I just smile and say ‘good morning. We’re standing there and have a can and a sign that says ‘Support the dead by supporting the living,’ Rikli said. “It’s not a hard sale at all.”
The post gives out about 3,000 poppies every year made by handicapped veterans, and use the funds to help hundreds of veterans going through financial straits, or patients at VA hospitals.
“It’s called a relief fund and it’s separate from everything else we have in the post fund. It’s only to help veterans, it’s the fact that veterans are helping veterans,” said Pam Bellemere, president of the Ladies Auxiliary. “The veterans made (the poppies), they’re helping distribute them and they’re using (the money) for veterans.”
Not only does it help the veterans, it also helps the people involved in it, especially the JROTC cadets.
 “I like it because it brings awareness, that they should be honored more than we do now,” said Stevie Schnoor, JROTC cadet and Blue Springs High School junior. “It brings me closer to understanding why a lot of the veterans and soldiers are over in Iraq now, and realizing everything that the veterans have done for us and what the soldiers are doing now.”
As the senior Air Force Junior ROTC instructor at Blue Springs High School, Rikli was the one who involved them in the Buddy Poppy program.
 “The kids enjoy doing volunteer work. All I have to say is ‘Can anyone come down this Friday or Saturday, we’re having the Buddy Poppy fundraiser, who would like to come out?’ Rikli said. “There’s a never-ending supply of  kids who want to do it.”
He served in the Air Force from 1970-1993 and was a pilot in the Vietnam War where he flew 300 missions in an F-4. Rikli’s been the Buddy Poppy chairman for seven years and involved with the program for 14 years.
“Somebody needs to do it and I was very happy to do it. I enjoy speaking to people about the military especially those with family in the military. That chance to have a short conversation with someone you’ve never met in your life but it brightens your day and it brightens their’s,” Rikli said. “It’s nice to be out there on a beautiful day. Nothing’s better than greeting your neighbors in the city with a big smile or a ‘good morning.’”
Others think he does a great job.
“He explains it to us and he helps motivate us to want to go out and help,” Schnoor said.
Rickli’s motivated by a great cause.
“I almost think of (Buddy Poppy) as a sacred event because all the money goes to help the veterans, nothing else,” Rickli said.
Just like a single donation is a drop in the bucket of all the donations given, Rikli is one of hundreds of VFW members taking care of each other.
“There’s always someone to help because no veteran will leave another veteran behind,” Bellemere said.