BY MELANIE WADE –
Following the updating of the decorative sidewalks on North Mena Street in recent months, local members of the American Legion’s Flag Program are finding it a bit more difficult to distribute some of their flags, as there are no longer holes in the sidewalks to place the poles. Currently, veterans are using wooden stands to hold the patriotic flags, however, they are heavy on the volunteers who rise before daylight to place the flags, and they require more storage.
“Over the past several years we have requested of the Mena Mayor and Mena City Council to consider our request for one inch holes to be drilled in the concrete sidewalks along Mena Street in front of eighteen businesses. This would allow our American Legion volunteers to do away with the heavy, ugly, wooden stands, which now hold the flags on Mena Street, and are a tripping hazard to pedestrians,” explained Col. (Ret.) Billy Wood, a volunteer for the program.
At the November meeting of the Council, some expressed concern that if holes were drilled into the new sidewalks, rain could fill them up, freeze, and the bust the concrete causing cracks. Wood explained further, “Most recently, the Mayor and City Council are declining a request to drill holes in the newly replaced sidewalks on Mena Street for fear that it will cause the sidewalks to crack. We disagree, but we also understand they are looking out for the city and protecting the sidewalks.”
In December’s City Council meeting on December 12, Mena Mayor George McKee explained that the city is looking into purchasing flag pole holders for all of the decorative lampposts that line Mena Street, both on the south and north ends. Although there were no immediate resolutions made, the Mayor said they were awaiting an estimate on the cost of the holders.
Wood and Bob Young, also of the local American Legion, were in attendance at that meeting and expressed gratitude for the council’s work on the matter, but also questioned how the holders could work for businesses that purchase more than one flag per holiday. “We have some businesses that pay for four flags to be placed outside of their business,” said Wood to the Council. Mayor McKee said the Council would continue to look at the issue and work with veterans to keep the program running smoothly. In the days since the meeting, Wood said they have determined that each of the 70 lampposts that line Mena Street would have two flag holders. On Tuesday morning, December 19, Wood said a local man offered to incur up to $1,500 of the cost as donation. This would keep the city from having to budget the cost in and would help the veterans at the same time. A complete solution is hoped to be seen before Presidents’ Day 2018, their next schedule day to display the flags.
Wood said their local American Legion Post #18 is “proud of its program” and that the number of flags being sponsored is growing rather quickly. “We have twelve American Legion volunteers who put out these flags on five different routes. Due to our increase in sponsors, we are going to have six routes starting in February 2018. We had Boy Scouts Troop #92 helping on Pearl Harbor Day and hope to have the Girls Scouts helping soon. We also want other groups of youth to help such as the Acorn Baseball and Acorn Archery programs.”
The volunteers are also proud of the memories that the program brings each time the flags are displayed. From viewing the flags as a patriot to being a volunteer that proudly helps place them, the memories stretch among generations and organizers are looking forward to the continuing growth and honor the program brings.
Currently, there are 114 businesses and individuals who sponsor 141 flags inside Mena’s city limits on each of eight flag holidays. Those holidays in 2018 will include: Presidents’ Day, February 19; Armed Forces Day, May 19; Memorial Day, May 28; Flag Day, June 14 June; Independency Day, July 4; POW/MIA Day, September 21; Veterans’ Day, November 11, Observed Monday, November 12; Pearl Harbor Day, December 7. If you are interested in sponsoring a flag or know someone who is, contact COL (USA Ret.) Billy R. Wood at 479-234-1503, Capt. (USN Ret.) Bob Young at 479-216-5805, or Cdr. (USN Ret.) Bob Lancaster at 479-394-3006 for more information. All donations are tax exempt.