Every year started out the same. Up early, despite the day off, ironing uniforms, and making sure we made it to the cemetery for the ceremony. In the early days, there was a parade – and being a girl scout, we marched and waved to the people as they joined in at the end to go to the cemetery.
Along the way, you passed flags. The court house was surrounded by them. The cemetery was filled with them. All government buildings had them flying out front.
Traveling by them, you would think it is just another small town patriotic scene. Stop and take a closer look at the flags, and you will find that each one belongs to a person. Each flag was a soldier who served the country in a time of war.
These are the flags that made up the Avenue of Flags. And, after the names were read of those who served and had passed during the past year, there was the reading of the flags. When a soldier who has served in war dies, their casket is still draped with a flag. They are still entitled to the ceremony of a soldier even if it had been 40+ years since they had served. The family may chose to keep the flag, or they can have it displayed through the Avenue of Flags.
The people at the Avenue of Flags put each flag on its own flag pole. They tag the flag with the person, wars served, etc. Then, for Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day, and 4th of July, they make sure the flag is flown. And the year they die, their flag is dedicated during the ceremony.
In 1991, my grandpa Percy’s flag was dedicated. Grandpa served in WWII and the Korean War – he was a Navy Sea-Bee. He had died the previous year, and my dad, in his dress uniform, carried his dad’s flag to its place of honor while Grandpa’s name was read on at the Memorial Day Ceremony. And, when the ceremony was done, my dad oversaw the National Guard’s 21 gun salute for the honorees and others soldiers being remembered. I think that was the year they did it with the howitzers too. It was a pretty spectacular view really. Sunny day, blue skies, thousands of flags in the air, with the smoke drifting through. I doubt Spielberg could have setup a more perfect scene for a movie.
This is the image Memorial Day will always have for me. And, even though we are not there to do the annual search for Grandpa’s flag, we will be flying our own flag. For Grandpa Percy, for Grandpa Bob, and for Grandfather Skeet. And, for all of those who have served our country.