A tribute: VFW creates Walk of Flags

by Rachel Parker Dickerson

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4453 in Morrilton has, in a span of four years, created a Veterans Walk of Flags made up of more than 500 American flags.

Vic Brown, a U.S. Marine and a veteran of the Korean War, said the flags are displayed at St. Vincent-Morrilton seven times a year – in May on Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day; in June on Flag Day; in July on Independence Day; in September on POW/MIA Recognition Day; in November on Veterans Day; and in December on Pearl Harbor Day.

People from around the country have bought into the idea, purchasing flags in honor of veterans, he said. The flags were first flown four years ago on the Fourth of July. Since then the number has grown from 65 flags to 522.

“We started putting it up. People saw them and liked what we were doing. It just spread from there – just referrals and referrals and referrals.”

Jerry Perkins, a fellow member of the VFW, said a special ceremony is planned at the Walk of Flags on Veterans Day (Nov. 11).

“We’re doing it because of the uniqueness of the day, 11-11-11, and at 11 in the morning because the original armistice was signed at 11 in the morning,” Perkins said.

Invitations have gone out to state and local dignitaries, and the public is invited, he said.

Perkins, an Air Force Veteran of Vietnam, said, “My uncle had something similar to it in Minnesota, which gave me the idea to do what we’ve got.”

When a flag is purchased, the VFW sees to the care and replacement of it. Flags are displayed in concrete bases, each of which has a number on it coordinating with a number on the flag pole. Also, the veteran’s name, service branch and rank are listed. Each flag is placed in the same location each time it is displayed so that family members can easily find it when they come to visit.

“We’re in partnership with St. Vincent-Morrilton. They let us put holes in their yard so we can put up the flags,” he said. “When we issue the flag, we send (the family) a frameable certificate that tells them the flag number.”

It can be a big job to raise and lower 522 flags.

“When it comes the day to put the flags up, we’ve been very fortunate,” Perkins said. “We have a Catholic school, Sacred Heart. The principal has the kids come over and put them up. In the afternoon, it is hard to get the kids to come back. We have VFW members, spouses, kids, grandkids, to come over and take them down. That’s a lot more complicated. We could put them up in less than an hour and be taking them down for an hour and a half to two hours. The guys at the VFW told me this has turned from a project into a job.

“It’s nice to see the families come out. We always seem to increase the number of flags. Some people even lay little flower wreaths at the base of the flag, or they want to sit on a bench next to the flag for their loved one or just take pictures.”

For every flag purchased, the VFW makes about $35 or $40, Perkins said. The funds are used for a number of community-minded goals, he said.

For example, the flag program has enabled the VFW to participate in the community by offering prize money for school essay contests and sending care packages overseas to military personnel who have family in the Morrilton area, Perkins said.

“The first thing people think about when they hear VFW is a bunch of drunks in a bar. We don’t even have a bar at the post,” Perkins said. “We try to give back to the community. We put on programs at the school. If a bank or somebody has a ratty old flag out front, we don’t like that, so we give them a new one. We put on programs at the school. We tell them what the flag is about and about showing respect to the flag. We try to ingrain a little bit of patriotism in the kids.

“Basically, we’re trying to become a good community citizen in Morrilton, help the town out and do some good things for them.”