'It's the flag of our country'

For more than 10 years, members of American Legion Post 43 in Jackson Hole, Wyo., have spent part of Memorial Day placing flags on veterans’ graves that might be considered off the beaten path or may be covered by wild vegetation. But the post’s flag advocacy doesn’t start or stop on May’s last Monday.

Throughout the year, the post is providing flag etiquette to high-school students, delivering graveside honor guard ceremonies at veterans’ funerals and properly retiring used U.S. flags.

Post 43 Adjutant Wayne Flittner said the tradition of placing flags on hard-to-find veterans’ graves throughout communities near Jackson Hole began well before he became a member of the post in 2006. Flittner said that no matter the weather – which can include snowstorms – large crowds come out to watch the effort. More than 300 flags were placed on Memorial Day this year. Some of the graves date back before the Civil War.

“It’s our responsibility to all those who have served and have passed away – whether they died in action or just passed away from old age,” Flittner said. “They deserved to be recognized and honored, and that’s part of the tradition and the history of The American Legion. It’s part of our veterans serving veterans philosophy. It’s helping keep the traditions and the patriotic themes alive in America today, which we badly need.”

But the post’s flag advocacy efforts extend beyond Memorial Day. Flittner said that members of the post were at Jackson Hole High School this week to pass out small flags, and copies of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence to graduating seniors. The post also has a box outside of its building where members of the community can dispose of their used flags. The post typically disposes of the flags during a retirement ceremony on Flag Day.

The U.S. flag has a special meaning to Flittner, a Korean War combat veteran. “It’s the flag that I served under,” he said. “It’s the flag of our country. Freedom.”