American Legion thanks flag-flying businesses

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 02:10 PM

The visits aren’t announced.

“We just walk in and say, ‘May we speak to the manager?’” said Carolyn Wells, president of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 104. “A lot of them are surprised.”

For the past few weeks, American Legion Post 104 and the auxiliary have been acknowledging local businesses that respectfully display the American flag. Wells helps deliver certificates of appreciation.

About 18 businesses have been honored, Wells said. They include Food City in Kodak, the Sevierville Golf Club, Advanced Auto Parts, the Sevierville and Kodak post offices, Big Boy’s Toys, Smoky Mountain Knife Works, and Baymont Inn & Suites.

In a series of photographs sent to The Mountain Press, Wells is seen presenting the certificates, along with the auxiliary’s Barbara Hendricks.

“We’re just trying to let them know that we really appreciate the businesses flying our flag,” Wells said.

The effort was organized by Post 104 Adjutant David Howard, who said it is part of a patriotic American Legion program called Americanism.

“We’ve been monitoring businesses for the last six months,” he said, “to see who’s flying at half-mast (when appropriate), who’s having flags that are not deteriorated beyond belief.”

“I live out 66, so on my way into town, I’ve checked every business,” Wells said. “Some of them are displaying flags just for advertising, or to get people in. That’s not what it’s about.”

Some business owners are surprised anyone notices their flag, Howard noted. “We not only noticed,” he recalled saying, “we noticed the condition of the flag. We noticed that you do it with respect.”

In the past, businesses routinely flew the flag, Howard noted. “All businesses,” he said. “Now it’s sparse.”

The flag program increases visibility for the American Legion, Howard said. “It creates more exposure for us in the community, for what we’re doing.”

“By doing the Americanism, that is showing the public a little bit of what we’re about,” Wells said.

Founded in 1919, the American Legion supports service members and veterans, mentors youth and advocates for patriotism.

Legion and auxiliary members also perform community service, including recent local efforts aimed at hunger and needy schoolchildren.

One certificate of appreciation went to A&W. The U.S. flag flies on a pole in front of the Dolly Parton Parkway eatery.

“It means everything to me,” said A&W owner David O’Shields of the flag. “It represents the fact that all the military people have given the ultimate sacrifice.”

O’Shields, who served for six years in the U.S. Marines, had the flag in mind when he opened the restaurant 19 years ago. “I told the architect, ‘I have to have at least a 60-foot flagpole in front of the business.’”

He values the Legion’s effort. “The American Legion is a great organization,” he said. “That’s who I buy all my flags from. It’s a great thing that they show their appreciation.”

The Legion’s Americanism effort is ongoing. “If word gets around,” Wells said, “we hope more businesses will fly the flag.”

kburns@themountainpress.com