Between two deployments to Iraq, Robert Stone of American Legion Post 51 in Las Vegas started a flag rewards committee to raise the Legion’s visibility in his community. As the flag committee chairman, Stone created a list of businesses in North Las Vegas flying the U.S. flag and personally created, framed and awarded certificates of appreciation to them. "I thanked the (business) managers for being patriotic, for flying the U.S. flag," he said. "I like giving the flag certificate because it gives us that opportunity to go out and recognize businesses and people by saying, ‘Thank you.’ It’s also good for exposure, and it builds relationships."
For businesses with empty flag poles, Stone created and distributed a sales flyer that featured photos and prices (shipping included) of U.S. flags sold from American Legion Emblem Sales. "I handed those businesses a flyer and a Post 51 business card and said, ‘I notice you have an empty flag pole. If there is anything that Post 51 can do to help, please let us know.’"
Stone’s personal interaction with the local businesses not only created exposure for the post, but businesses began dropping off their unserviceable flags to the post. As a result, Post 51 members, in conjunction with the city, began hosting two flag retirement ceremonies a year – Flag Day and Veterans Day – at a local fire department.
"So many people drive by U.S. flags every day and don’t even notice them," said Richard Sutton, commander of Post 51. "With the flag retirement ceremony, our goal is to make the flag visible; to make it understood."
Post 51’s flag retirement ceremonies provide education to the community and youth on flag etiquette, protocols and procedures. Boy Scouts inspect and properly dispose of unserviceable flags; JRTOC cadets present colors; and high school students sing the national anthem and perform Taps.
"I believe that if there is something good to be done for our community and youth, then let’s do it." Stone said.
And before a U.S. flag is retired, Stone inspects it for repair. He washes dirty flags that are in good condition otherwise and puts a new seam on a flag, making sure not to alter its size. "We hand the repaired flags out to businesses that have an empty flag pole. It’s no cost to us," Stone said.
By the time Post 51’s flag retirement ceremony program was well under way in 2010, The American Legion’s Flag Rewards Program was announced. Stone registered the post, already having established positive relationships with businesses that flew the flag. Participating in the program was also an opportunity for Post 51 to further support youth education.
Posts participating in the Flag Rewards Program receive a 10-cent credit for each dollar spent on the purchase of American flags. Purchases include those made by the post, as well as by the post’s members, friends, neighbors, local schools and businesses that choose to sponsor the post by buying their flags from The American Legion.
Post 51 earned $150 in credit in 2013 to spend in 2014 toward the purchase of any Emblem Sales catalog item. The post uses the credit earned every year to purchase youth medals, certificates and plaques or to pay membership dues for a veteran who cannot afford to. Stone's goal is to make Post 51 No. 1 in Las Vegas for the Flag Rewards Program. To succeed, he hopes to encourage other post members to personally hand framed appreciation certificates to their neighbors who fly the U.S. flag. "It’s a great way to meet a new neighbor and that neighbor might be a veteran who becomes interested in joining the Legion," Stone said. "At the very least, they would recognize a neighbor for flying the flag and have a new neighbor to wave at."
Stone’s desire to see the U.S. flag soar in North Las Vegas for all to salute comes from his passion for volunteering. "We (The American Legion) exists to do for others," he said. "That’s why I joined."
Learn more about the Flag Rewards Program here.