Flag stolen but hearts remain

Luna Brewer • Updated May 29, 2017 at 11:11 PM

You can steal a flag.

You can’t steal what’s in a heart.

In a crowd of red, white and blue, veterans, Johnson City Mayor David Tomita, Junior ROTC cadets, Boy Scouts and others gathered in remembrance at Washington County/Johnson City Veteran’s Memorial Monday evening.

Serving as an unwanted backdrop to the Memorial Day service was the recent vandalism of the memorial. On Sunday, the American and POW MIA flags were stolen from the memorial for the second time this year.

But Brenda Barnette, chairwoman of the memorial board, was adamant about not letting the theft ruin the ceremony.

“They can steal our flags, but they can’t steal what’s in our hearts,” Barnette said.

Dedicated on Nov. 11, 2011, at 11 a.m., the memorial is a living tribute to those who were killed in action, missing in action or prisoners of war as they gave their all to protect the nation. The memorial’s red and black granite panels contain the names of more than 2,000 Washington County Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine and Navy veterans.

Following the presentation of the colors by members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979, the Pledge of Allegiance by Boy Scouts and the national anthem sang by Haley Lingerfelt, Rotary Club President Gary McAllister called attention to the red poppies Boy Scouts handed out at the beginning of the program.

The poppies were attached to names of veterans corresponding to one of the 352 names of deceased Washington County veterans inscribed on the red granite panels.

“After our ceremony today, if you could, find the name you have on the wall and say a little ‘thank you’ to that person,” McAllister said.

The highlight of the memorial event came with Junior ROTC cadets from Daniel Boone, David Crockett, and Science Hill.

Each of the school's’ cadets honored three of this year’s honored heroes. The heroes included World War I’s Lester Potter Harris, World War II’s David Stanley Renfro and the Vietnam War’s Harry Ray Stewart.

Once Lingerfelt rounded out the service with her performance of “God Bless the U.S.A.,” McAllister ended the memorial by reminding everyone that “freedom is never free.”

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