CHATSWORTH — When the Murray County Veterans Celebration Parade rolls past the Murray County Courthouse on Saturday, those in the procession will see something new: 100-plus flags and crosses on the courthouse lawn.
"Flags Across Murray" is a new project this year consisting of American flag-and-cross combinations that also list the names of various veterans, their era of service and their military branch. The flag-cross designs have been placed in the ground throughout this week, and they'll remain on display at least through Veterans Day.
"I think it's wonderful," said Donna Flood, a co-coordinator of the parade. "It's amazing."
Ringgold does a similar project, and Elizabeth Robinson thought "We can do this," so she spoke to organizers in Ringgold for tips, and then enlisted the help of her community, Robinson said. "It's a big community project, and nobody has told us 'No.'"
Among those assisting with the flags and crosses on Tuesday were members of Murray County 4-H and the Murray County High School football team.
"Anytime we can get the kids in the community and meeting other people, it's a positive thing," said Chad Brewer, coach of the Indians. "We always want to do (things) as a team to help our community."
Brewer, in fact, canceled practice Tuesday in favor of a team trip to the courthouse to help assemble and plant the displays, he said. "We want to give back to the community that has given us so much."
Numerous businesses and individuals donated materials, labor and time to this effort, Robinson said. For example, Murray County High School students built many of the crosses, and Robinson, her father and Shaw Industries personnel helped paint them.
"We wanted to honor veterans, living and deceased," she said. Crosses for deceased veterans have small, black crosses on their backs to differentiate them.
Flood's grandfather, father and nephew are all represented among this year's crosses, she said. "My grandfather was in World War II, and my father was in Vietnam."
The crosses are made of wood, and, this spring, North Murray High School students will start building crosses for 2020, Robinson said. Murray County High School students will also continue their building.
Robinson expected "maybe 20" families would purchase crosses for loved ones for this year's display, but, instead, 100 crosses will be on the lawn, and she expects more in future years, she said, noting, "This will be an ongoing project."
Eventually, the crosses and flags can expand beyond the courthouse lawn to other spots in the community, such as church properties, she said. In addition, the flags-and-crosses display will return to the courthouse lawn on Memorial Day, but only for deceased veterans, since that holiday memorializes deceased veterans, while Veterans Day is for all veterans.
Saturday's parade through downtown Chatsworth starts at 1 p.m., Flood said. The parade will begin and end at the veterans memorial on Hyden Tyler Road.