For the past quarter-century, a 20-by-30-foot flag has flown from an 80-foot pole at Veterans Memorial Park on the Bradenton waterfront, just north of Manatee Memorial Hospital.
But a dangerous crack that appeared in the flag pole made it impossible to fly the big flag this past Memorial Day.
My wife and I joined many of you in the crowd that day for the Memorial Day service, and saw that the big flag was missing.
In the Bradenton Herald’s Memorial Day story, Richard Dymond reported:
“The iconic repository of stars and stripes was sidelined Monday during the Manatee County Veterans Council’s 2011 tribute to those who have given their lives in defense of America.”
The flag won’t fly there on Independence Day, either, or for a few more months afterward.
“After 25 years of weathering the elements, the flag pole has become unsafe and is beyond repair. As much as we wanted to honor our deceased veterans by flying the 20-by-30-feet flag, it would have been unsafe to do so,” wrote Don Courtney, a retired Army chief warrant officer who serves as chairman of the Manatee County Veterans Council, in a letter to the Herald.
On behalf of the Veterans Council, Courtney recently announced plans to raise $18,000 to replace the damaged flagpole with one that stands 60 feet and to fly a smaller flag from it.
There will be less stress on the pole with a smaller flag. And maybe it will be another quarter-century or longer before it needs attention again.
Wind and weather have also stressed the pole, possibly leading to the damage.
“It’s a big flag and when it gets wet, it gets heavy,” Courtney said. Damaged concrete around the base of the flag will also be repaired, and new lighting will be added.
Courtney and the Veterans Council are asking Manatee County’s 40,000 veterans and their families to literally rally around the flag to raise the $18,000 needed to return Old Glory to her rightful place on the waterfront.
The goal is to have the new flag pole up and all repairs completed in time for Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Anyone can help.
Checks should be made out to Manatee County Veterans Council. Write “flag pole” in the memo portion of the check. Mail your contribution to MCVC Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1881, Bradenton 34206.
The council is a 501(c)3, making all contributions tax-deductible.
Knowing how veterans always answer the call, I have no doubt that raising the $15,000 won’t be a problem.
“We have about $300,” Courtney said, “but we just started.”
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.