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Memorial Day Flag Garden Idea Spreads  05/27 13:37

   BOSTON (AP) -- The solemn display of tens of thousands of U.S. flags that 
first appeared on Boston Common for Memorial Day a decade ago, honoring service 
members who have died defending the nation, is slowly becoming a national 
movement.

   The flag gardens, as they are known, can be seen this weekend in Texas, 
Louisiana, Ohio and New York, all started by local residents inspired by the 
Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund tribute established in 2010.

   "We are extraordinarily proud that what we intended to do for the 
Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been brought to a scale that we never fully 
anticipated," said Tom Crohan, president of the nonprofit's board of directors.

   The concept has even spread to Canada, where thousands of Canadian flags are 
planted in Toronto on Remembrance Day in November, when Canada honors its 
military members who have died in the line of duty.

   The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund was founded in 2009 to support to the 
families of active duty service members killed since 9/11.

   The first sea of fluttering stars and stripes included 20,000 flags, one for 
every Massachusetts resident who gave their life in war since World War I. This 
year, more than 37,000 flags honoring those who have died dating to the 
Revolutionary War have been planted.

   What makes the stirring display so special is that it's so unexpected. Most 
people who see it are just walking across the Common for another reason, Crohan 
said.

   "It's almost impossible to walk past that site without stopping," Crohan 
said.

   That's what happened with Chuck Schneider, executive pastor of Sagemont 
Church in Houston. Schneider and his wife were on vacation in Boston three 
years ago and on the way to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game when they saw the 
flag garden.

   "I was so moved that I immediately thought I'd like to do the same thing in 
Texas," he said.

   With the help of hundreds of volunteers from the church's congregation, 
38,000 flags are planted on church grounds, each one representing a Texan who 
died in service dating to the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.

   Janet Broussard, a member of the Blue Star Mothers of Louisiana, was 
inspired by pictures of Boston's tribute. For five years now, the organization 
has planted 11,000 flags on Statehouse grounds in Baton Rouge.

   Karen Carmen, community services director for the city of Beachwood near 
Cleveland, saw an article about the Boston display in her local newspaper. 
Since 2012, the city has been painting a 30-foot-by 60-foot U.S. flag on city 
property and decorating it with hundreds of smaller flags.

   Like Crohan, they say they get the greatest satisfaction from visitors' 
reactions.

   "The thing that I love is when you see families solemnly and slowly walk by, 
probably thinking of a special loved one," Carmen said.

   Broussard's favorite moment was the time a little girl of about 4 whose 
father had died in Iraq visited the Baton Rouge flag garden.

   "She asked 'Which one is my Daddy's?' That just made it all worthwhile," 
Broussard said.


(KA)

 
 
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