Flag theft darkens Memorial Day

by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer

For many around the country Memorial Day is a holiday of remembrance and rest, but for a select few the holiday is an opportunity for mischief.

The American Falls American Legion Roland Evans Post #3 has a long standing tradition in Power County of displaying flags on holidays, including Memorial Day. Each holiday volunteers from the organization get up early and post American flags in holders in front of local businesses.

For the organization, compised primarily of military veterans, the flag program is a way to give back to the community that has supported them during and after their time of service.

“We enjoy having the chance to go out and pay tribute to the men and women that have fought for our freedom,” said American Falls American Legion Commander Tom Lute.

Memorial Day is the biggest day of the year for the American Legion’s flag program. Preparations begin weeks in advance with members of the American Legion and their subsidiary organizations, Sons of the American Legion and Women’s Auxiliary, checking hundreds of flags for defects, securing pole attachments and constructing memorial wreaths for each cemetery in Power County. The Saturday before Memorial Day volunteers place crosses and small flags at the markers of each deceased veteran buried in the five Power County cemeteries and line the entrance roads to the Falls View Cemetery and the Neeley Cemetery. For volunteers the holiday is capped off with a day-long tour of Power County performing wreath laying ceremonies at each cemetery and the Snake River.

Flag thefts have placed a dark cloud over the day. For the past two years several flags lining the entrance to the Neeley Cemetery have been stolen, four in 2012 and one in 2013. American Legion Sergeant of Arms Jeff Fuss called this year’s thief more considerate.

“Last year someone stole four flags, pole and all. This year we are only missing one flag and they left the pole and hardware so it wasn’t as bad,” said Fuss.

Lute said the theft diminishes the statement.

“We put out these flags because we love our country and the people who have given so much to make America the country it is. This is a way for us to show that appreciation by making the cemeteries even more beautiful for families coming to visit their loved ones. Seeing a gap in the line of flags takes away from that message,” said Lute.

Sons of the American Legion Commander Raymond Workman called the thefts pointless and shameful.

“One of our main focuses is to get as many flags out into the community as possible and offer flag education. Anyone that needs a flag can contact us and we can get them a flag at a very low cost. It seems very unpatriotic to steal a flag no matter what, but when there is a source out there that makes flags available it makes it even worse,” said Workman.

American Legion member Vernon Bethke was realistic about the missing flags.

“We will never know who took those flags. It was probably someone looking for a thrill. I would like to know who took them, but I know no one will ever fess up. It is really disappointing,” said Bethke.

Lute said despite the cost of losing the flags the program will go on.

“We replaced the flag as soon as we discovered it was missing. The businesses that participate in the flag program have given us so much support that we have flags on hand to replace stolen and damaged flags. We are proud to show our flag and we will continue to put them out. The thing I wish these people who steal these flags would know is they are hurting the memories of the people who fought so hard to protect our ideals,” said Lute.

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