Braille flag installed at Jacksonville National Cemetery
By BAILEY VANDIVER | The (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union | Published: June 3, 2019
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — A blind veteran stood framed between two American flags.
The one on his left was what most people picture as the American flag: the Stars and Stripes in vivid red, white and blue.
The one on his right was the Braille flag, and it was newly installed at Jacksonville National Cemetery.
The Braille flag is much smaller than a traditional flag, made of bronze instead of cloth and mounted on a post in the ground. The Stars and Stripes design is raised on the bronze so blind individuals can feel it, and the Pledge of Allegiance is written on it in Braille as well.
Veteran Walt Peters, who served three tours in Vietnam and is legally blind, was one of several men introducing the Braille flag before its unveiling.
“I feel that this Braille flag is a godsend for us blind veterans in America,” Peters said to the crowd of a few dozen.
The Braille flag was designed by Randolph Cabral of the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute, whose father was a blind veteran. In 2008, Congress approved the Braille flag as an official American flag and passed a bill authorizing the placement of the flag at Arlington National Cemetery in February 2008.
On Feb. 5, 2008, Peters touched a Braille flag for the first time. It was a paper version in Savannah, Ga., where he was serving members of the military who were shipping out or coming home.
Since then, Peters, a Jacksonville native, has been involved in the installation of more than 50 Braille flags across the U.S., primarily in southern states.
He was a big part of Monday’s event, in which the flag was unveiled just outside the cemetery’s information center. The new flag was sponsored and paid for by Vietnam Veterans of America 1046, VVA 1088, Veterans of Foreign Wars of Nassau County and the Blind Veterans Association, said Tony D’Aleo, president of VVA 1046.
D’Aleo said he became involved with the project about six months ago because of Peters.
“He grabbed me and he hooked me,” D’Aleo said.
Each man who spoke during the ceremony mentioned or thanked Peters as central to the Braille flag effort. They were Buck Taylor of VFW Kings Bay, Ga., Paul Kaminsky of the Blind Veterans Association, Al Richburg, director of the cemetery, and Peters himself.
The only other Braille flag in Jacksonville has been at the VA clinic since 2017. Peters also donated that flag.
Peters’ next goal is to get a flag in the St. Augustine cemetery, which is among the oldest in the U.S. After a meeting last week, that was approved, but there is not yet a timeline for when it will be installed.
Peters, 75, said he doesn’t have a lot of years left, but he will spend them trying to get the flags at more VA clinics and cemeteries around the country.
“I figure if God will allow me to do this for the next 10 years, I’ll be totally blessed,” Peters said.
After Peters, Taylor and Kaminsky unveiled the flag, Peters reached out to feel it.
“Yes sir, she’s beautiful,” he said.