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The Avenue of Flags needs you

There are times in this column when I am sure I get repetitious. I have some favorite causes that I like to promote from time to time. This is one of those weeks.

Coming up is Memorial Day weekend and our well traveled U.S. 50 highway just north of town will be host to thousands of cars traveling east and west for the holiday. By radio and social media traffic and sometimes by thank you notes from people we will never meet, we know that travelers coming upon the lighted flag display at Prairie Lawn Cemetery pass our community in awe, with great respect for the thousands of American soldiers who fought to keep them free. They do not know us, nor do they know our soldiers, but they know what they are seeing and they love it.

It is time once again to raise the Avenue of Flags at the cemetery. Time to test the light bulbs, hang the flags, attach appropriate name plates, and make sure the power comes on when it should to illuminate the 200-plus flags in an awe-inspiring display just outside this little bitty town in the middle of Kansas. Who would have thought?

It takes dozens of volunteers helping the members of American Legion Post 95 and the Sons of the Legionnaires to complete the Avenue of Flags display every year. Luckily, Legion members have developed a good volunteer base to help with the labor. However, they can always use more.

“We can always use help,” American Legion member Larry Watts said. “The flags number more than 200 now and the project gets larger every year while we all get older. But this is a great way to honor and thank those who gave us the freedoms we have. There are veterans buried here from as early as the Civil War in the 1860s. That is pretty incredible.”

There are few, if any, World War II veterans left to help. Soldiers who fought in Korea are aging as well. My own peers are Vietnam War veterans and I can hardly believe that we are in our 60s, often struggling with physical activities we once did with ease. Behind us come more Cold War soldiers and those engaged in the fight in the Middle East, but there are not many of them.

Besides, these individuals did the fighting once. They should not be the only group out there struggling to erect 200 flags in honor of their comrades.

I learned Monday that American Legion members will begin creating this year’s display at 6 p.m. Friday. They will be installing the flag poles and checking the lights and wiring. Watts said that Peabody-Burns High School football coach David Pickens already has committed team members who volunteered to help with whatever the Legion needed for the Avenue of Flags. This is not the first time our high school students have offered their youth, strength, and enthusiasm for this cause. They are a great group of kids and good for them!

Other individuals have agreed to help as well, but as grandma used to say, “Many hands make light work.” Grandma was right.

There are no specific criteria to becoming a volunteer for this cause. You only need a desire to help, the ability to follow simple directions, and enough dedication to be there on time and stay until the job is done. Easy stuff. Show up at Prairie Lawn Cemetery at 6 p.m. Friday to install flag poles and check lights. Show up at 6 p.m. again May 22 to hang flags and add name plates. Come back one more time at 6 p.m. May 26 to take down the flags if they are dry.

In addition, at some point during Memorial Day weekend, you should drive out to Prairie Lawn at dusk or after dark and see the flags. It truly is a moving sight.

—Susan Marshall

Last modified May 14, 2015

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