Dawn M. Kurry
Richmond County Daily Journal
Veterans Day was celebrated this past weekend in Richmond County, beginning with a wreath ceremony and guest speaker and ending with the dignified disposal of tattered flags.
Saturday’s event began at the Richmond County Veteran’s Park in Rockingham. Hosted by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Post 647 of Hamlet, wreaths were decorated and arranged to honor fallen soldiers of each branch. The National Anthem was sung by Sarah M. Haywood, followed by a raising of the flag by Richmond Senior High School ROTC and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Guest speaker SGM Vincent T. Gunter SR, USARC Argumentation Unit, Fort Bragg, spoke to the audience before the ceremonial laying of the wreaths. Proclamations were read by Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin and Hamlet Mayor Jeff Smart. AmVets Post 316 of Rockingham honored veterans with a 21-gun salute and Nathan Yarborough played “Taps.”
Later that evening, a dignified disposal of unserviceable flags was held at the American Legion Post 147 in Rockingham. Torn flags are disposed of twice a year, and flags that need to be disposed of can be dropped off at three different locations; VFW Post 4203, 106 Old River Road in Rockingham, WAYN Radio, 1223 Rockingham Road in Rockingham and Jenkins Automotive, 916 Long Drive in Rockingham.
This year the ceremony took a new and sentimental twist when the veterans had the idea to cut out the stars of the flags to be disposed of and sent them to soldiers stationed overseas.
Post Commander Robert Steele said, “We did a disposal of old and worn out flags. We held a ceremony and burned them in a pit. In the ceremony each officer present has to observe the flag and say it is not serviceable. It’s a sign of respect.”
Each star that is cut out is sent to a soldier stationed overseas with a card that reads, “I am part of an American flag. I have flown over a home. I can no longer fly. Sun and winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.”
Boy Scouts assisted with the process.
The idea came from Richard Lunceford, who has a son stationed in Afghanistan. He said his son left with the Laurinburg National Guard and headed to Texas for a month, then went to New Hampshire where others handed them stars from old flags. After New Hampshire, the troops headed to Afghanistan.
“It may be about 100 more days, we hope,” said Lunceford about his son coming home. “They left on Father’s Day to go to Texas. This is his third deployment. It makes me feel great to do something for him and other soldiers over there, so they can have something to keep, to know in his mind that somebody at home thinks something of him.”
The veterans also decorated the graves of at least 68 deceased veterans with flags for Veterans Day.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.