Indiana citizens gather to repair flags for servicemembers' graves

By MITCHELL KIRK | Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Ind. (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 16, 2017

Lively commotion mixed with the pounding of staplers around tables strewn with stars and stripes Monday night at the Cass County Izaak Walton League in Logansport, Ind.

Members of four local groups gathered for the first time to repair American flags that decorated veterans' graves in Cass County cemeteries for Memorial Day last year, allowing them to be used again this year. Driven by a loyalty to their organizations and respect for veterans, about 70 volunteers saved roughly 750 of the about 3,000 flags, allowing the Cass County Veterans Council to save on funds set aside to buy new ones.

Being out in the elements left many of the flags tattered and with bent sticks, but hundreds remained in good condition or partially so, allowing for at least their flag or stick to be reused.

Some volunteers spent their evening separating flags already in good condition from those that needed work or couldn't be saved. Others pried staples attaching the flags to the sticks before assessing each element's condition and sorting them accordingly. Then there were those who reassembled intact flags with undamaged sticks, ensuring their reuse this May.

The local Boy Scout Troop 221, Cass County Izaak Walton League, Fountain of Life Homeschool Support Group and Olde Towne Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution participated.

Diann Sedam, who has ties to all four, organized the effort. She said her sons' Boy Scout troop has helped place flags on veterans' graves for years and it got her wondering if it was necessary to get all new flags each year.

"It's all about our vets," Sedam said of the motivation behind Monday's initiative. "It seems like a simple process but putting the flags on the graves is extremely important. That's one way to remember these men and women who have fought for us and gone before us and this is just something really simple we can do to keep their memory alive."

Rural Royal Center resident James DeWitt, who served in the U.S. Army from 1966 to 1968, said he volunteered to help the Boy Scouts and recognize his fellow veterans.

"I think we should honor all our veterans and this is my way of helping do that," he said.

Logansport resident Rebekah Ash of the Fountain of Life Homeschool Support Group attended Monday as well. Her four children, who range in age from 2 to 11, were just some of the kids who accompanied their parents. Ash said it's important for children to start learning about the contributions of service members at a young age.

"I think it's good for the kids," she said. "They need to know what has happened and what's going on."

Also representing the homeschool support group were Logansport residents Kristi Spangler, her 12-year-old daughter, Karis, and her mother, Deanna Gordon. As the three assessed and sorted flags, Kristi said she wanted to help those who place the flags on veterans' graves.

"It's a good cause," she said. "I never see anybody putting flags out, or rarely. I always see it afterwards. So somebody has to take time to do those kinds of things."

Air Force veteran and Izaak Walton League member Rob Adair disassembled flags with Army veteran and Troop 221 leader Dennis Ellison, both of Logansport.

"When it comes to the flag, we support the flag," Adair said.

Ellison said the project will help offset the about $3,000 the veterans council spends on flags each year.

At one of the reassembly tables were DAR member Claudia Benn, Izaak Walton League member Jerry Bitterling and local scout troop committee member Bill Ogsbury, whose father was a veteran and whose son is a veteran.

"It's part of the service for DAR — to do as much as we can to support veterans," said Benn, whose father served in World War II. "To be part of placing these flags on the graves is really what the push is — to be ready for that."

Troop 221 leader Gerald Kersey, Logansport, and Nathan Speitel, Kewanna, spent Monday evening assembling flags as well.

"Our troop works every year putting flags out at the cemetery and a lot of them are in bad shape and the veterans council spends a lot of money on new flags every year," Kersey said.

Speitel said his desire to volunteer was sparked by his respect for veterans.

"This is just the least we can do to recognize their hard work," he said.

Logansport resident William Klopp attended with his soon and troop 221 member, Matt, 14. As he stapled flags to sticks, William spoke of his admiration for service members.

"Anybody that wants to give up their life to save others is just totally an immense idea," he said.

Matt agreed.

"They just feel the purpose to serve their country and to me they get all my respect when it comes to that," he said.

Myra Vanecek, a Logansport resident and DAR member, wrapped finished flags into bundles and placed them into the bins they'll be stored in until returning to graves for Memorial Day.

"I think we should recognize veterans in any way we can, big or small," she said. "Put enough small things together, it becomes a big thing and so I believe in doing the little things to make veterans seem more important. They are important. We want people to recognize this."

©2017 the Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Ind.)
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