Today and tomorrow, during the morning and afternoon commutes, war veterans, dressed in uniform, will kick off Memorial Day weekend by handing BART riders thousands of "Buddy" Poppies. Those are the famous flowers known worldwide as the symbol to honor those who've fought for their country.
BART has offered the use of all 43 of its stations to local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts so veterans can hand out the tiny, red flowers for free. In exchange, VFW members will ask riders for a voluntary charitable cash donation to support disabled veterans and their families.
"We will offer a 'Buddy' Poppy to everybody whether they can afford to donate or not," 65-year-old veteran Vern Crete said. Crete serves as the junior vice commander and honor guard captain at VFW Post 9601. "I've had people give a penny or $100. Every bit is appreciated." Crete and a half dozen members from his post will be at the Castro Valley Station for the "Buddy" Poppy charity event.
"BART is proud to have the opportunity to salute those who've served," BART Board Member and Vietnam War veteran John McPartland said. "Regardless of one's personal beliefs about war, we should always honor those who are in harm's way protecting the freedom and liberty that our nation enjoys." McPartland represents the Castro Valley & Dublin/Pleasanton areas. He helped the VFW secure the proper permits for the event and will be participating in the flower distribution at Castro Valley Station during the Thursday evening commute.
"BART is humbled by this opportunity to acknowledge the heroic efforts of the men and women who have given their lives to uphold our American beliefs," BART Board President James Fang said. "We are proud to work with the VFW in their charity program and we hope in some small way it helps to improve the lives of veterans. I would like to commend Director McPartland for bringing this issue front and center to BART."
"BUDDY" POPPIES RAISE MILLIONS EACH YEAR
Every year, war veterans around the world distribute approximately 14 million "Buddy" Poppies and collect $15 million in donations. The donations support many charitable programs like medical care and funeral costs for disabled and homeless vets and the surviving family members of deceased vets.
"I served two tours in Vietnam," Crete said. "I came back from the war in fairly good health, but my ears were damaged from gun fire. My primary medical provider is the VA hospital. But the government can't do everything and in fact, doesn't do enough for veterans. That's why I enjoy participating in the "Buddy" Poppy charity program. As long as I have the health to help, I will donate my time, my energy and my money to do what the government can't do to help veterans."