Flag Day is this week.
Admit it, you forgot all about it. You're not alone. Squeezed between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, it's easy to overlook it.
But this Friday, the American Legion Riders and volunteers from American Legion Posts 66 and 131 will be putting out a big reminder: 96 U.S. flags along a mile-long stretch of La Cañada Drive, from Continental Road to Esperanza Boulevard. It's part of the Avenue of Flags, managed by the Green Valley Council; the flags fly during several holidays each year, sunrise to about 4 p.m.
Ray Robinson, Avenue of Flags chairman and a Legion Rider, spent 32 years in the service — more than eight years with the Navy and then retiring from the Army National Guard. He headed up the Avenue in his hometown of Geneseo, New York, for 37 years. Now a Quail Creek resident, he began taking part in the Avenue for seven years ago in Green Valley after moving here 10 years ago.
Robinson said the Avenue started in Green Valley more than 20 years ago, and is meant to foster and perpetuate respect for the U.S. flag and to honor members of the armed services, past and present. Robinson finds comfort in accomplishing that goal.
"As a veteran, it makes my heart feel good that we do just that," he said. "The other thing it does is kind of educational because some people see the flags up on June 14th or they see the flags up on Dec. 7th and they don't know why are they putting the flags up. Well, it's flag day on the the 14th and Dec. 7th is Pearl Harbor Day."
Robinson said it's disrespectful when people burn the flag or turn it upside-down in protest. While it is OK to disagree with Congress or elected officials, Robinson wants more practical ways of addressing leaders or policies they want to challenge.
The flag is a symbol of the U.S. Constitution and represents governing power resting with the people and not with leaders, a defining feature when the country was founded, Robinson said.
Legion Riders vice president Bobbi Baldridge moved here more than two years ago from Nevada to be closer to her son, Kyle, and his family, stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Baldridge will be among the volunteers placing flags along La Cañada Drive on Friday. The Legion Riders take pride in displaying the flag whether it is a holiday, ceremony or just riding around town, Baldridge said.
"The flag is very important to us because to us it represents freedom," she said. "They'll have the flags on their bikes, flags on their vests and it very much means freedom and dignity."
Being a new resident, Baldridge wanted to get involved in the community, and what was first apparent was the amazing amount of patriotism in her new home, she said.
"I didn't know a soul," Baldridge said. "So I joined the Post 66 and 131 and it's just amazing how much they like to give to the veterans. It's very meaningful to them."
Like Robinson, Baldridge finds it heart-breaking to see the flag damaged or displayed upside-down as a protest. While there are many people who may agree with her about it being disrespectful to damage a flag, Baldridge goes one step further by volunteering to place flags along the road.
"It means a lot to me too, because I see so many people that would have a lot of respect for the flag and what it represents," Baldridge said. "It's something that I feel is such a great privilege to be a part of."
Be a volunteer
Baldridge, Robinson and about a dozen volunteers from the Legion Posts will place the flags this year for Flag Day; Robinson said different community groups take turns bringing out the flags for different holidays. People who want to help out don't need to be members of the organization to take part. Robinson is always looking for volunteers to join or be on a substitute list.
Robinson wants people this holiday to know it's more than just about displaying the flag when they drive down La Cañada Drive on Friday and see them waving in the wind.
"I think it's just an educational service to the community as well," he said. "To have the people remember what our country is, all that the men and women of the country have sacrificed to make the country what it is."