WALLA WALLA -- "A labor of love," is how Michael Johnson, executive director of The Center at the Park, described the project completed by three groups of Walla Walla veterans Monday.
American Legion Walter C. Lee Post 32, American Veterans (AMVETS) Jonathan M. Wainwright Post 1111 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Grant Farmer Post 992 joined forces to raise funds for the newest addition to the Center, a 30-foot flagpole and a new flag.
The old pole was donated by the American Legion in 1980. The new pole is 10 feet taller than its predecessor and has a locked compartment so the flag cannot be stolen, a problem the Center had experienced with the old pole. Accompanying the new pole is a plaque commemorating the three groups of veterans and the dedication on Flag Day.
Nearly 60 people, many in uniform, attended the dedication. Together the audience sang "God Bless America" and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Just as the flag was raised a breeze caught the fabric and it unfurled in the wind. The audience responded with applause and comments on its beauty and magnificence.
"The reason we did this is because as veterans we're proud to see the flag flying," said Jim Irwin of AMVETS. It wasn't only the efforts of the veterans that finished this project, he explained. The city of Walla Walla, Koncrete Industries Inc., and many donations from community members made this project possible. Help even came from the Walla Walla Fire Department when the fire alarm accidentally went off at the Center. The trucks arrived and instead of a fire they found veterans putting together the new flag pole and helped them finish the task.
Louis Hammock first had the idea for the new flagpole and suggested it to Irwin two years ago. Seeing it completed "just seems right" to Hammock.
"We need to honor our country," Hammock said.
Jennifer Jorgenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.