An honor guard composed of members of the Carter County cadet program accepted new flags, including an American flag that was flown from the Tennessee Capitol. They also had five new flags, one for each of the nation’s armed forces and a new POW/MIA flag.
The cadets then formed parties to retire the old flags and raised the new flags to full staff before lowering them to half staff. Several old veterans and other onlookers stood at attention and watched the young cadets as they completed their mission.
The American flag that had flown over the Capitol was presented to the cadets by state Sen. Dewey “Rusty” Crowe. He is an original member of the Veterans War Memorial Committee, which planned, raised the funds, and organized the construction for the memorial in downtown Elizabethton.
Prior to presenting the flag to the cadets for raising, Crowe called forward Sara Sellers, another charter member of the committee. He had another American flag that had flown over the Capitol and he asked her to present it to her brother, Bud Whitehead, who is in the hospital. Whitehead, like Sellers, is an Air Force veteran. He also served many years on the Carter County Election Commission.
At the end of the ceremony, Crowe told the cadets about his father and uncle, who fought in World War II. He told them his father had flown 31 bombing missions over Europe. Crowe said he was named Dewey after his uncle, a P-38 pilot who was killed during the fight to recapture the Alaskan island of Kiska from the Japanese.
Sellers shared some of her memories of her 30-year career in the Air Force, especially her memories of seeing the American flag flying in many places thousands of miles from home. But her most vivid memories came after she retired, when she was appointed a commissioner of the American Battle Monuments Commission. She had seen the flag flying over most of the American cemeteries at battlefields across the globe.
“I remember being in the Philippines, with the flag flying over those 15,000 white stones and the many names inscribed in the wall, mostly of men who had been buried at sea,” Sellers said.