I saw some old guy in a soldier's uniform selling fake red flowers. He said it was for Veterans Day. What's the connection?

There's a long and haunting connection between red poppies and Veterans Day, which originally was called Armistice Day. Armistice Day was the worldwide observance of the end of World War I, which occurred at 11:00 a.m., on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.

During World War I, Flanders, Belgium, was the site of fierce and prolonged battle. Deep green fields turned into charred wastelands. In the spring, however, huge stretches of bright red poppies bloomed over the burned fields where so many soldiers died. During that season, Canadian doctor John McCrae tended the wounded and dying for more than two weeks straight with little sleep. He later wrote a poem, In Flanders Fields, which captured the soldiers' fears of dying for nothing and of being forgotten.

Dr. John McCrae's poem, timeless in its plea, could be the anthem of any military service person — no matter the battle:

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amidst the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day to honor all those who have served the United States in all wars. In the United States, Veterans Day is observed on November 11 each year. The proceeds from the sale of artificial poppies go to fund veterans programs.