Anyone traveling on King Street near the Whitfield County Courthouse over the next few days will see the splendor of more than 100 American flags, set on a patch of green by the group United We Stand to celebrate Memorial Day.
"It's an honor to pay tribute to the veterans who served our military," said Lee Oliver, commander of American Legion Post 112 in Dalton. "When you go into the military, you sign a blank check up to and including your life, (and that is) a momentous thing."
The Avenue of Flags began in 1991, and United We Stand places flags in downtown Dalton multiple times per year, including for Memorial Day weekend, said George Lo Greco, who has been part of this ongoing event since its inception. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, that day was also added to the calendar.
Depending on the holiday, as few as a dozen or as many as 50 or 60 people will assist with the flags, said Oliver, a United States Navy veteran. The Memorial Day flags honor those who have served in the armed services or are serving, as well as those considered missing in action or killed in action.
Because of ongoing renovations to the courthouse roof, the flags are mostly confined to the strip of grass on King Street, said Lo Greco, commander of the Sons of the American Legion in Dalton. The group normally sets out 495 flags, but due to space limitations set out 110 on Friday, he said.
A handful of men from Dalton's American Legion Post were helped by Whitfield County Jail trustees, inmates who have earned the chance to go outside and interact with the public for a brief period, he said. Lo Greco said the group is grateful to Sheriff Scott Chitwood for providing the help.
In the future, and perhaps as soon as this year, United We Stand hopes to expand its holiday flag operations to the Dalton Green park next to the courthouse, Lo Greco said.
He also wants to change all their flags to nylon from cotton, because nylon only takes 30 minutes of sun and wind to dry out when wet, while the cotton flags require as much as three days to dry, he said. All 110 flags placed for Memorial Day weekend are nylon.
There will be a Memorial Day service at 10 a.m. Monday inside American Legion Post 112 (1118 N. Glenwood Ave.), which will include a three-rifle-volley salute, the playing of "Taps" and reading of the names of Whitfield County veterans who died in the past year, Lo Greco said. The public is invited, but health guidelines to protect everyone from the new coronavirus (COVID-19), such as social distancing and wearing of masks, will be practiced. Anyone feeling symptoms of COVID-19 is asked to remain at home.
"Veterans will tell you they are not heroes, but they did walk with heroes" while they served, and they never forget their comrades who didn't make it back, he said. Holidays like Memorial Day can be therapeutic, as "we celebrate all those heroes."
The flags will remain up through Memorial Day before being taken down Tuesday at noon. Friday morning's ceremony concluded with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer.
"Civilians have no idea" the sacrifices those in the armed services make, "because they never made that commitment of a blank check," said Lo Greco, who served in the United States Marine Corps. That promise of service "has no expiration date," either, he said.
The commitment is "never over, even out of uniform," Oliver seconded. "We continue to serve our community."