Thursday, March 21, 2019
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20190227 Veterans IMG 2956MISSION — David Chevalier’s dad greeted the local sheriff as he walked into the yard.

“Excuse me, do you have a son named David Chevalier,” the sheriff said.

“Yes, I do,” dad said, probably chuckling in his mind because he knew what the next statement was going to be.
“Why hasn’t he replied to his draft letter,” the sheriff asked.

“It’s because I was already in the Navy for almost a year at the time,” David said to the crowd at W&I Resort in Mission during the presentation of quilts, made by park residents, to 22 veterans. “I got my draft letter when I had already been in the Navy for six months.”

20190227 Veterans IMG 3003The quilt-giving and recognition of the veterans was the second half of a ceremony that began with a flag retirement ceremony where more than a dozen United States flags were placed in a barrel and burned, which, according to states “the flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Among the reasons to retire a flag would be a cut or tattered flag or one that has even faded and the colors are no longer vibrant and bold.

Ironically the fourth annual flag retirement ceremony landed on the 74th anniversary of when members of the 5th Divisions of the U.S. Marines planted a U.S. Flag atop Mount Suribachi on the Pacific Island of Iwo Jima near the end of one of World War II’s bloodiest battle. The photo is one of the most recognized recreations in U.S. warfare his-tory.

The first year that W&I Resort coordinated the event, quilts were donated to World War I vets, the following year they were made for World War II veterans and last year for Vietnam Veterans. “This year we are giving quilts to veterans we may have missed or to new veterans in our park,” said Mary Scott, a W&I resident and quilter. “We hope to continue to do this.”

20190227 Veterans IMG 3025The recipient of Scott’s quilt was Bob Isakson, who received a warm ovation after mentioning that he had “two children and three grandchildren who have or are serving in the military.”

Scott wasn’t sure if she’d be capable of finishing the quilt, suffering a mini-stroke not long after she started it. “The left side started working again,” she said. “I’m so happy I was able to complete the quilt.”

Each recipient walked to the stage where the quilt was presented for observation. After that moment, the veteran would turn to face the audience and those on the stage holding the quilt would drape it, comfortingly, over the veteran’s shoulders. Some even wrapped their head and upper bodies in the beautiful, and quite large, handmade crafts.

The celebration began with music, prayer and recognition of the veterans receiving quilts later in the day. Resident Paul Sportinelli and his group demonstrated the proper folding of a flag immediately following “Big John” singing “I’m Proud to be an American.” Other musical performances during the ceremony included the National Anthem, Ragged Old Flag, God Bless America and the playing of "Taps."

20190227 Veterans IMG 2946Those with flags walked in line around the rectangular-shaped field once a fire was lit in a barrel by Jack Whitfield. Next, Darrel Hilbrand would collect one by one each of the retired flags, place them on a pole with a hook and place them into the roaring fire. Some flags burn differently than others because of the materials they are made of. No matter, they are to be burned completely to ashes before the fire it put out.

As one veteran walked by he talked about the ceremony.

“At first I was very skeptical; I wanted to make sure it was done with all the reverence that the flags deserved,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised that first year and continue to be pleasantly surprised each year. This is the way it should be done.”

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