24 Oct Honoring veterans: Morrilton hosts special flag display
story and photos
by Linda Henderson
Ever felt you have been in church, but you haven’t? That is how I felt as I watched members of the VFW Post 4453 from Morrilton put up flags at the Walk of Flags. The reverence and devotion to honoring fellow men and women who have served our county brought tears to my eyes. In these days filled with controversy over our nation’s flag, it was so refreshing to see honor of the flag and service in action.
The day I photographed the Walk of Flags display was hot! The sun was already beating down on the small walking park. Placing each of the 808 American flags in their designated spot started early, well before 7 a.m. It began with two men opening the trailers that store the flags, and with great care each flag was unwrapped and straightened. Each flag was then taken to its numbered spot and placed into a concrete holder. Two more post members arrived, and then four more. Before 9 a.m. all the flags were out, decorating the park and representing service to our county.
Seven times each year, the VFW Post 4453 presents the flag display along the St. Vincent Morrilton Hospital Walking Trail at 4 Hospital Dr. The Walk of Flags was started July 4, 2007, with less than 50 flags and continues to grow each year.
The Veterans Walk of Flags honors veterans from all wars beginning with World War II. Each flag has been purchased to recognize the service of a local veteran. All 808 flags have the name of a veteran on the pole, as well as the branch of the service they were in.
Not all flags represent service members who are from Conway County, but their family members live in the area. Families or individuals who wish to honor the service of a loved one turn in an application for a flag to the VFW Post. The family pays a one-time fee for the upkeep, storage and cost of flag trailers. Families receive a certification of the flag and of its placement. The Post then purchases the flags, poles and labels and displays them on patriotic holidays. One family member told me as we watched the display being assembled that her father’s service lived on as the flag with his name was brought out every year.
There are very special service flags that face East Harding Street. The Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard flags fly to honor the different branches of service.
Another special American flag located facing Harding Street is one honoring Nathan G. Gordon, a native of Morrilton and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Gold Star, an Air Medal with two Clusters and a Presidential Unit Citation of Merit.
Gordon was a Navy pilot during World War II. He served in the Southwestern Pacific Theater and flew a seaplane christened the “Arkansas Traveler.” He was the longest tenured Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas and held that office from 1947-67.
Other special flags honor two veterans that the VFW is named for, Harold D. Martin and Elvin V. Bradley.
Other days that the flags are displayed include Armed Forces Day (third Saturday of May), Memorial Day, Flag Day (June 14), Independence Day, POW/MIA Day (third Saturday of September), Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Day (Dec. 7). The flags are placed at around sunrise and are returned to the storage trailers at the end of the day.