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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Flags on graves to fly till July 4

This flag is already out and ready for Memorial Day. It adorns a veteran's grave at St. Richard's Cemetery in Swanton. This flag is already out and ready for Memorial Day. It adorns a veteran's grave at St. Richard's Cemetery in Swanton.

The thousands of small flags being placed by veterans' graves this week in Fulton County's more than 60 cemeteries will fly until Independence Day.

For years, the 10 local veterans organizations that place and then pick up the flags let them fly from Memorial Day until Veterans' Day.

But leaders realized that Fulton County was one of the only Ohio counties keeping the flags out from May to November - and they were becoming ragged, said Lewis Culler of the Swanton American Legion. By collecting the flags in July instead, Mr. Culler said, the flags can typically be used twice before they are retired in Flag Day ceremonies.

This year Fulton County Veterans Services spent almost $3,600 for 3,456 flags, measuring 12 by 18 inches, from Fayette Flag & Banner Supply in south-central Ohio's Washington Court House.

The county service, supported by a 0.5-mill local property tax levy, started buying the flags in 2004. They had been purchased by area veterans organizations - the American Legion posts in Swanton, Delta, Wauseon, Pettisville, Archbold and Fayette, Veterans of Foreign Wars in Swanton, Lyons, and Wauseon, and the Catholic War Veterans.

Local taxpayer funds also provide those organizations with up to $300 each to pay for Memorial Day speakers, bands, wreaths, or dinners.

But the flags are still placed by veterans who volunteer to walk through the cemeteries, looking for gravestones with a military insignia or a flag holder purchased by the veterans groups.

Buried in the county is at least one veteran of the war in Iraq, although he wasn't killed in service there, as well as veterans from service in war and peace throughout the years. The same flags go up on all the graves, whether the vet was killed in service or lived until old age and died at home.

"A veteran's a veteran," Mr. Culler said.

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