41st Avenue of Flags Memorial Day display planned

American flags will line the roads of Orange Grove-Graceland Cemetery, 2023 Broad St., for the 41st Avenue of Flags Memorial Day display. The flags will be raised at 6 a.m. and retired at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 27.

For more than four decades, the Avenue of Flags has been the largest display of memorial flags in the United States. In 1983, Rex Smelser with the Oliver Pollock Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAM) started the project to create the largest display of American flags in the country. This vision was motivated by the desire to honor U.S. veterans from every past and present military branch.

The project started with 50 flags. Today, they display 1,200 flags. Director of Avenue of Flags Ted Harless said the flags are extremely special. Each flag displayed is a flag that has been laid over the casket of a fallen veteran and donated to SAR by the family.

After receiving a flag, SAR ensures that each one is numbered and stored with information about the veteran it is connected to.

The flags are hoisted every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but a ceremony is hosted on Memorial Day each year to accompany the Avenue of Flags.

This year’s ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. on Monday. In attendance will be military representatives from all five branches, SAR members dressed in colonial military uniforms, Lake Charles Nic Hunter and Bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles Glen John Provost.

In addition to a eulogy, Ret. Col. Leonard Pauley Jr. of Lake Charles will give a keynote address. Taps and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” will be performed.

Harless said that Avenue of Flags is a vital, annual expression of gratitude and respect.

“The sole reason that we continue to display the flags has everything to do with patriotism and saying thank you and showing respect for people in the military that have served in all branches of the service.”

The flags are lined across four different roads in the cemetery. Harless said that a flag is displayed every 10 feet. Visitors will be welcome throughout the day to walk, cycle or drive through the Avenue of Flags.

Harless estimates that about 1,000 to 2,000 will visit throughout the day.

“The History Walk” is a new addition to Avenue of Flags. This is a rare and vibrant display that highlights the 27 iterations of the American flag and all 50 state flags to show the progression of the United State’s flags.

The walk is about 100 years long and will have QR codes with historical information for each flag.

While displaying over 1,000 flags sounds taxing, Harless said that with the help of 200 to 300 volunteers, it only takes about an hour.

Volunteers are vital to Avenue of Flags, and organizers are in critical need for them, he said.

Those interested in volunteering can stop by the Orange Grove-Graceland Cemetery at 6 a.m. to raise flags or at 5 p.m. to retire flags.

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