Drought offers Indiana flag planters a challenge
The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Armed with ingenuity, volunteers brought their weapons to work the ground in memory of fallen warriors.
Some 6,574 American flags filled boxes outside Indiana State University’s Memorial Stadium on Wednesday evening, as volunteers prepared to place them in the drought-hardened ground for this weekend’s Wabash Valley Run for the Fallen.
Organizer Olivia Goulding said the long months of heat and drought presented volunteers a bit of a challenge as they sought to place the flags in rows lining the route.
“Lots of people have come up with different mechanisms,” she said near a pile of tools ranging from mallets and screw drivers to homemade instruments with fence posts and boards. “That has been so cool.”
Now in its third year, the event began as an homage to Goulding’s friend and Terre Haute native, U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Griffin, who died in Afghanistan in October of 2009. But with the help of supporters crossing all branches and ages, the run has steadily grown, she said.
Flags bearing the names of all U.S. military personnel killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 line the trail at Memorial Stadium, and each year the group endeavors to accumulate a mile for each name.
“The flags will be here all week,” Goulding said, explaining they will remain up at the site through Aug. 27.
Saturday morning a 5K race will kick off at the stadium beginning at 8 a.m., after which a flag ceremony will be conducted there at 9 a.m.
More than 150 volunteers are already participating, with 70 runners pre-registered for the 5k by Wednesday, she said.
Meanwhile, the placement and removal of 6,574 flags remains the biggest challenge, but one which volunteers said they’re glad to undertake.
Barbara Palmer said her son-in-law serves in the U.S. Navy, and her nephews are also in the service.
“I believe in the cause and want to help out,” she said Wednesday, unloading flags. “We’ve been lucky that nothing has happened to them. But there’s always a chance.”
Jim Fuelle, Goulding’s father and a retired industrial arts teacher from Schulte High School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School, brought his experience from shop class to the endeavor. Showing off his homemade hole-puncher, he demonstrated how he’d placed a spike into a 2-by-4, with blocks for support, and could use it to drive a hole into the hard ground. This, he explained, saved one from having to get down on the ground with a hammer and screw driver.
“That’s going to be hard to do,” he said, pointing to those volunteers who hoped to kneel on the ground and punch holes in the dirt.
Other workshop creations included steel fence posts with foot-brackets welded to the sides, and others with handles attached.