by David Miller
Back in early 2011, I heard that the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 649, from the Batavia area, were collecting torn and tattered American flags. They would have a proper retirement ceremony for the flags they collected. I contacted the organization to see if Loveland folks could participate. As much as anything, it was a selfish question because I had several old flags in my own basement that I never knew what to do with. When they said, “Yes of course.”, I began to think of a way to collect flags in Loveland.
Union Savings Bank is right next door to our office on West Loveland and I had known the Branch Manager for many decades so decided to ask that if I put a collection bin in the lobby of the bank, would it be OK. Marla Simiele thought it would be a great service to offer her customers, and over the last 4-years we have collected perhaps 500 old, torn, and tattered flags. The first batch was taken to the Veteran’s group and those flags were then taken after a retirement ceremony to the Tufts Schildmeyer Family Funeral Homes Cremation Center in Goshen where they were turned into ashes. The ashes were buried in a Goshen Township cemetery.
Simiele and I decided that because of the popularity of the program we would do it year-round and although they have never been counted, I estimate we have collected more than 500. Simiele says it has been very popular with bank customers.
Over the years, every time I spoke to a scout leader I would ask if their troop would like to conduct a flag retirement ceremony to help me properly dispose of all the flags. I put pleas on community bulletin boards and still had no takers until I met a local leader this winter who I was buying a record turntable from. As we talked, he mentioned his son was in scouting and that he would ask at their next scout meeting about doing a retirement ceremony for the flags. After another couple months, I finally got a call from Kirk McCracken a local Cub Master, who said he would like some flags for a project. Kirk visited Loveland Magazine and he told me the story of taking his father on an “Honor Flight” and that one of the favorite things about the trip was when his father received a star from a retired American flag when he returned from Washington D.C. and was greeted at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Kirk wanted local scouts to have a supply of stars for projects like Honor Flight.
In this LOVELAND MAGAZINE TV interview, I spoke to McCracken and his son Liam, Bob Solimeno and his son Tanner, and Dee Daniels an Ambassador with Honor Flight Tri-State. Both Liam and Tanner helped cut out about 2,800 stars from the flags from only a portion of the flags that have been collected by Loveland Magazine and Union Savings Bank.
Daniels talks about the purpose of Honor Flight, and how local folks can get involved. You can support their trips to the Nation’s Capital as they take Veterans to see the war memorials, and how you may honor your own loved one with a free flight to visit their memorials in Washington, D.C. All World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans aged 65 and older, who served either stateside or overseas, are eligible for the free flights.
Loveland Magazine and McCracken are arranging for a flag retirement ceremony conducted by the local scouts to be held soon in Loveland. Stay tuned.
Union Savings Bank is located at 510 WEST LOVELAND AVENUE.