Will Ravenstein

Wellington Daily News

A large group of volunteers gathered at the entrance to Prairie Lawn Cemetery Saturday morning to begin the process of hanging 1,200 American Flags.

The nine feet by five feet burial flags were donated by family members of service members who have passed away.

The annual event organized by Andy McEntire and a core group of volunteers organizes the 1,200 flags and 1,257 names in a small room at the Armory.

What started out in the 1970’s with just a few people hanging approximately 20 flags has turned into a tradition for families.

“I got started the year my dad died,” McEntire said. “I have been involved for 20 years. Dad died in 1995, and have been volunteering ever since. It meant a lot to him, so I’ve just carried it on. It’s always important to support and remember all the people that fought and served in the military for our freedoms. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.”

McEntire credits all the volunteers that have help make the tradition what it is today.

“Our volunteers are great,” she said. “They really come out for us. They do a great job. Every year it’s amazing. We always have a great crew show up to put up the flags.”

The flags are separated onto two trailer based upon last name of the service member and the crews divide the cemetery into two parts. This allows twice the coverage to occur and the process to be about an hour.

“We’ve got it down to a science,” she said. “They go up and come down pretty well. We couldn’t do it without these people.”

Among the volunteers were two groups of Wellington baseball players; the Wellington Sluggers, 12u team playing out of Southwest Boys Club; and the Wellington Heat.

Both Jesse Cornejo, Sluggers, and Chris Torres, Heat, emphasized how important it was for their team to assist in the hanging of the flags.

“We have been talking about doing something like this for years now,” Cornejo said. “It shows our kids that things like this are more important than baseball. We said something to them about the reason we were out here and who it was for. We try to put it in their heads and get them to understand.”

Torres agreed adding that it gave him goosebumps to see all the flags and the people helping.

“It stands for a lot, those lives that were taken so we can be here and live in this amazing country,” Torres said. “As a coach I am able to teach these guys something, but it’s the off the field stuff that’s just as important.”

For Deanne Gould this is her fifth year volunteering with Avenue of Flags and she summed it up with one phrase.

“It makes you proud to be an American,” she said.

The flags stood in the wind over the weekend through the Memorial Day service on Monday, with another group of volunteers assisting with the taking down and storing of the flags Monday afternoon.