Flags for Heroes returns for a second year | The Johnstonian News
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Flags for Heroes returns for a second year

Posted on June 11, 2021

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Last year, some 500 Johnstonians honored local heroes with flags.

Screen capture from Town of Clayton vide

Last year, some 500 Johnstonians honored local heroes with flags.

theeden@johnstoniannews.com | 919-429-1675

CLAYTON — Flag Day, which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law in 1916, recognizes the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.

Clayton businessman Leigh Hudson and his fellow Rotarians think Flag Day deserves more attention than it gets. “There’s just so much to consider when you talk about and reflect on the America flag,” he said. “We feel this is a day that is not honored as it should be.”

That’s why four Johnston County Rotary clubs are moving this year’s JoCo Flags for Heroes from July 4 to the week of June 14.

Born during the COVID-19 pandemic, Flags for Heroes salutes Johnston health care workers, first responders, law enforcement and military veterans. Last year, the Rotarians sold 500 flags — one each for 500 heroes — and placed them in the field beside Johnston Health in Clayton. This year, the clubs have sold more 1,200 flags — roughly 1,000 for the field next to the Clayton hospital and about 200 for the grounds of Johnston Health in Smithfield.

Hudon’s Rotary club in Clayton created Flags for Heroes when the COVID-19 lockdown canceled the club’s annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser. “I approached our chair with this idea to be not only a fundraiser but an act of service to our community,” he said.

Rotarian John Temple said the club chose flags in hopes of unifying the community during the pandemic. “We feel that the unifying factor in people’s lives today is the flag,” he said. “We are not interested in the political views of groups; we just feel the American flag should unify us.”

“We try to educate people why we have the American flag, why we stand by the flag,” Temple added. “The flag holds great significance for us.”

In addition to the flag displays, this year’s Flags for Heroes will include three ceremonies — at 6:30 p.m. June 14, 16 and 18 on the field next to the Clayton hospital.

Dr. Eric Janis, a Johnston cardiologist, will speak at the June 18 ceremony, which will honor health care workers and their work amid the pandemic. “We have been through an unprecedented time over the last year, and I have seen the people who work at Johnson Health step up in ways that are unprecedented and worthy of admiration,” he said.

The June 14 ceremony will honor veterans and include a gun salute, the playing of “Taps,” and perhaps a flyover. The clubs were still working on that. On June 16, state Rep. Donna White will speak during a salute to first responders and law enforcement.

Sol Halliburton, director of the Johnston Health Foundation, is helping with the weeklong event. “It’s time to come together and appreciate one another, celebrate, remember and recognize the people in our lives,” she said.

Each flag has an accompanying medallion with the hero’s name. “People who have sponsored a flag will be able to find their flag, and they can go take photos, say a prayer, or have a quiet moment,” said Temple, the event’s co-chairman.

Last year, the Clayton flag display drew about 250 people a day.

“We didn’t know what the attitude would be for an event like this, but we were overwhelmed with the amount of people who were interested,” Hudson said.

With more than twice as many flags this year, and with two locations, Hudson and Temple expect more visitors in 2021.

People who visit the displays can expect to hear stories of heroism from other visitors there, Halliburton said. “As you go to the field and you see people visit and stop by, it would be inevitable that you will hear everyone’s stories,” she said.

The stories are many, Temple said. “Even though we’ll have over 1,000 flags in Clayton, those flags will give us millions of stories,” he said. “The flags all tell a story, so we want people to know the story of not only what the flag is about, but also why we stand by it.”

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