Avenue of Flags still deploying aging veterans
Visalia committee seeks volunteers to help fly 6,000 flags at the Visalia Cemetery for Memorial Day
VISALIA – Nearly 6,000 American flags will fly at the Visalia Cemetery on Monday in honor of those who gave their life in service to their country. Small flags are placed at 4,000 graves and 2,250 flags that once draped the caskets of those who laid down their life for freedom are raised along the Avenue of Flags. All of this is done in two days by a group of aging veterans who hope to recruit more volunteers to give a little bit of their time for those who gave all.
“There are more flags each year and each year there are less people to put them out and help take them down at the end of the day,” said Bill Morland, deputy commander of the Avenue of Flags Committee.
The Avenue of Flags Committee made up of former service members from two American Legion Posts, AmVets, Central Valley Vietnam Veterans, Military Officers Association, Sea Cadets, a Kiwanis Club and two Lions Clubs. Those interested in volunteering to put out the small flags on veteran graves should show up at 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 25 at the cemetery where they will be assigned to a veteran coordinator. Volunteers to raise the large flags will need to show up at 6 a.m. on Memorial Day, May 27. More importantly, Morland said the veterans need able-bodied volunteers of at least 18 years old to put up the flag poles from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, May 26 and to take them down at 4 p.m. on Monday, May 27. To volunteer, call Morland at 559-300-2306.
“We depend on volunteers to make this event happen,” Morland said. “We always need more help.”
Morland said most of the members are from the Vietnam era or before and are in their 60s and early 70s, making the back breaking work of putting up and taking down flag poles more difficult every year.
“We only have about 200 volunteers to put up 2,200 flag poles and only 125, mostly veterans, to take them down,” Morland said. “And we barely get it done with that many.”
The committee also hosts a ceremony from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Pavilion. The ceremony begins with the Posting of the Colors by the Flying Eagles Squadron followed by the National Anthem sang by the El Diamante High School Band and Choir. The Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Gene Richert, U.S. Army Security Agency, Vietnam, followed with a prayer by chaplain and Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Johnny Carr. The ceremonial opening will be followed by stories of prominent Visalia veterans buried at the cemetery, including a man who survived the Battan Death March, the presentation of wreaths, the playing of the military medley, a dove release and then a color guard rifle salute followed by the playing of Taps.
Morland said the Committee is expecting 600-800 people to attend the ceremony which has been held for at least 30 years.
“This event is very well received by the community,” Morland said.
In addition to flags and ceremony, the Visalia Cemetery will open three points of interest to the public beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at noon. These include the old mausoleum, heritage chapel and the 101-year-old Civil War statue. The Visalia Cemetery is located at 1300 W. Goshen Ave.