Memorial Day Weekend at Floral Haven

2 Jun

We visited the Avenue of Flags at Floral Haven Cemetery in Broken Arrow, OK last weekend for their Memorial Day tribute to the military. It was a beautiful evening and the display of flags was stunning. Each flag represents the casket flag of a deceased veteran. This year there were 3,053 individual flags flying over the holiday. Visiting the Avenue of Flags each year is a wonderful way to remember the sacrifices made by our servicemen so that we can live in freedom. Visiting Floral Haven has become a tradition for our family during Memorial Day weekend.

The Avenue of Flags began with a simple request from the widow of a Veteran, that we fly her husband’s casket flag on the grounds over Memorial Day Weekend. As people asked about that flag, it inspired them to donate their flags as well. This is yet another example of how the act of one person can made a difference to so many others.

From the very beginning, what made this special tribute different from many others around the country was that each donated flag actually bore the name of the Veteran whose family donated it. Each flag has an actual relationship with an individual Veteran, rather than being just a random representative of all Veterans. This made the Avenue of Flags a very personal event for each family.

During the first several years, the Avenue of Flags was a relatively small tribute that primarily involved our staff and the families of the Veterans whose flags were flying. As the years passed and more families donated their loved ones’ government issued casket flags, the Avenue of Flags became more of a tribute that involved the greater community.

In 1987, Neva Jennings, who volunteered with the Indian Nations Council of the Boy Scouts of America, coordinated bringing 13 Scouts out to help with the lowering of the Avenue of Flags on Memorial Day. The Scout involvement has steadily grown over the years and now brings more than 1000 young people from several different groups to the grounds to retire the colors at the end of Memorial Day Weekend. Their tribute to our Veterans includes a march to the Veterans Field of Honor, the retiring of the colors in that garden, a short program centered around Eagle Scouts lowering the Garrison Flag and finally, the lowering of all of the Veterans Flags throughout the cemetery. Each Scout receives an Avenue of Flags Patch, specially designed for that year’s program. The patch design is normally inspired by designs submitted by scout members themselves.

In 1995, two more additions were made to this personalized tribute. Even with the help of families and community volunteers, the sheer number of flags in the Avenue and the aging of many of the original donor families meant that more help was needed to raise the flags. This was the year that the JROTC programs with the area schools began to assist with this important beginning to the tribute. Now roughly 500 youth are part of this process. This was also the year that we had a model of the Tomb of the Unknowns built and the Starbase Squadron of the CAP [Civil Air Patrol] took charge of re-enacting the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb. This allows people in our community, who might never have the opportunity to travel to Arlington National Cemetery, a chance to see this solemn tribute. These cadets also took on the task of patrolling the flags throughout the grounds to make sure that each flag was flying freely and firmly attached to its pole.

What began with the flying of a single Veteran’s flag has now become one of the largest private tributes to Veterans in Mid- America. It has become a Green Country tradition and a reminder of the true meaning of remembering our Veterans over Memorial Day Weekend.

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