Those star-spangled banners yet wave over the Clarinda Cemetery each Memorial Day thanks to the efforts of American Legion Sergy Post 98.
Each year the members of the post raise an Avenue of Flags at the cemetery to honor the memory of all military veterans. However, this year, the post completed a transition from large cloth flags to slightly smaller nylon flags that will help ensure the grand emblems remain high flying for many years to come.
“I was really impressed with how the Avenue of Flags looked this year. We had several comments and a lot of people took pictures,” Post Commander David Grebert said. “Some people may think the bigger flags are more majestic, but seeing that many bright, new flags blowing in the wind was impressive.”
Last November, the post voted to replace the existing cloth flags that were displayed at the cemetery with new nylon flags. Grebert said the decision was made because the nylon flags are more weather resistant and cause less damage to the flag poles in rain or high winds.
Grebert said Page County Veterans Affairs provides a 5-foot by 9-foot cloth flag for use in military funerals. After the funeral, families then had the option to donate the flag to be displayed as part of the Avenue of Flags.
However, due to the size of the flags, Grebert said they easily became torn and tattered from the wind and were faded by the sunshine. The cloth flags were also so heavy when wet, such as after a rain, they would actually bend the 15-foot flag poles they were hung from.
Therefore, the post opted to switch to smaller nylon flags measuring 3-feet by 5-feet. Along with purchasing all new flags, several flag poles also had to be replaced this year as part of the project.
Moving forward, families of military veterans will have the option to purchase a flag and flag pole through American Legion Sergy Post 98 for $50 to remember their loved ones as part of the Avenue of Flags.
“Any family of a military veteran can have a flag. The veteran does not necessarily have to be buried in Clarinda. There are some veterans who are buried overseas or at other veteran cemeteries. So we will put up a flag for any military veteran if the family is interested,” Grebert said.
The new flags were ordered in December and shortly after the start of the year members of American Legion Sergy Post 98 began work on marking the new flags.
“On each flag we have the name of the veteran, the military branch they served in and the period they served, like World War II. The information is printed on the white border of the flag where it connects to the flag pole so people can go out and walk around the cemetery, and find the flags of their loved ones,” Grebert said.
Approximately 250 flags were placed along the different roads of the Clarinda Cemetery this year to create the Avenue of Flags. However, when members of the post started sorting through the cloth flags to prepare for the transition to the nylon flags, Grebert said only approximately 200 flags were still in use.
“We had a list from one of our past commanders from 10 or 15 years ago and we replace the flags for all the names on that list. They had a flag at one time, but some had been retired because they were torn or faded and they had not been replaced,” Grebert said.
When new flags are added to the Avenue of Flags, Grebert said they are dedicated during the Memorial Day Service held by American Legion Sergy Post 98 at the Clarinda Cemetery. The flags are flown around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that first year and then join the collection be located throughout the cemetery.
This year, Grebert said seven new flags were to be dedicated. However, the post was forced to cancel its program on Memorial Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the guidelines related to the size of public gatherings.
Those seven flags, Grebert said, will be dedicated during the program in 2021 along with any new flags received during the year for the Avenue of Flags.
The virus also forced the post to cancel various fundraisers planned to assist with the cost of purchasing the new flags and poles. Therefore, donations are being accepted and may be sent to American Legion Sergy Post 98 at 107 W. Washington St., Clarinda, Iowa, 51632.
With Memorial Day now over, Grebert said the post will turn its attention to returning the cloth flags to the families of the veteran they represented. Some flags have already been returned to families.
“It has been kind of emotional for a lot of the people we have already contacted. When we take the flags back we try to be as formal as possible. It is very touching to give the flags back to the families. It really gives you a good feeling,” Grebert said.
However, Grebert said finding family members to return the flags to could be challenging because some of the flags honor veterans from as far back as World War I and even the Civil War. Therefore, families that know they have a flag honoring a loved one or are a descendant of a veteran with a flag, are asked to contact Grebert at 712-542-7118 to arrange having the flag returned.
“As we have given some of the flags back to the families, we have realized just how faded, torn and stretched they become. We were surprised how bad they had gotten over the years. So we are hoping once we get this project started, if a flag is torn or faded, it can be easily replaced,” Grebert said.