Marine veteran Dale Vance and nearly a dozen other veterans sat in the sun at the front of the Bluebird Retirement Community, their right hands raised in a salute as one American flag is retired and a new one is raised.
The Vietnam Veterans Chapter 746 of London conducted the flag ceremony Friday morning, not only presenting a new American flag on the Bluebird flagpole, but also taking time to honor and present gifts to all the veterans living at the retirement community.
Activities Director Mary Richey said, addressing the veterans, “This is a special day for so many of you who have given so much. So thank you very much.”
Dave Cunningham, commander of the Vietnam Veterans post, post members Carl Fry and John Cunningham led the flag ceremony, bringing down the old flag and raising the new one.
The post members then presented flags to each of the veterans made by second grade students at London Elementary School, and also presented a number of letters from the local second graders thanking the veterans for their service.
“Thank you for serving in the military. Thank you for making us free. Thank you to the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marine Corps. Thank you for serving in the military. Your friend, Oliver,” read one of the letters.
“That was really super,” Vance said about the ceremony, flags and letters from the second graders.
Vance, 92, said he started in the Marines during World War II as a guard for President Franklin Roosevelt. “Then I served in the south Pacific, taking Iwo Jima. When we took Iwo Jima, that saved the lives of 27,000 airmen. Can you believe that?” he asked. He added that toward the end of the war, he met one of the airmen who no longer had to fly without air cover because Iwo Jima had been taken, then used for a fighter escort airfield.
Next to him was the oldest of the veterans, 102-year-old Navy veteran Lee Forrest. He served as a radioman in World War II. “Lee’s only got 10 years on me,” said Vance. “I’ll catch up with him.”
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