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American Legion riders replace flags at Eco Park

By Staff | Nov 4, 2015

CHUCK?BALLARO Jim “Redbeard” Mitchell, far left, and Don Teasley, right, fold the old American flag as John Leuthard watches during a flag retirement ceremony at the war memorial at Eco Preserve on Saturday.

They rode in from downtown, went up Del Prado Boulevard and made the turn that led them to the military memorial at Eco Park.

The members of the American Legion Post 90 riders held a ceremony Saturday as they replaced the old, tattered flags at the war monument with brand new ones.

Post 90 donated $400 to replace the flags, which had seen better days.

Rick English, the captain of the Post 90 Riders, said not much money is raised to replace the old flags, so the post passed the hat to do it themselves.

“I met with Gary Bowler, who is working on the bricks and I asked about the flags. He told us and we decided to donate the money for them.” English said. “We asked if we can come in and do a small ceremony and take the old flags down and put the new flags up,”

Bowler, the president of Veterans Midpoint Memorial Charitable Trust, said his group has worked for 15 years to serve veterans. The park goes through about four sets of flags per year, and is thrilled about the donation.

“This is the first donation we’ve gotten in 12 years. We’re pretty excited and maybe this is something that will help us out,” Bowler said. “These are my brothers and sisters. We’re all veterans and we’re here to serve them.”

Jim “Redbeard” Mitchell, a 32-year Army veteran and director of the American Legion Riders, said only about a quarter of their 75 riders attended, as many are snowbirds.

“I understand this is one of the first times and veteran organization has stepped up and purchased new flags,” Mitchell said. “We hold fundraisers to support various programs throughout the year. We agreed to fund this and it was through the generosity of our membership.”

The flags were taken down in order of The Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army, and finally the American and MIA flags. The new flags were raised in reverse order, with the new American and MIA flags raised first, by post members who served in that particular branch.

Some of the riders saluted as the American flag went up, and when all the new flags were raised, everyone gave a salute at the end of the program.

Most were faded over time, with the Air Force flag torn badly over its emblem. The old flags will be destroyed in a proper manner, English said, adding that with the Florida weather and the fact they are never lowered, the flags last about four months.

“These flags last about four months around here. With all the weather, it takes them out pretty quickly,” English said. “In the summer it’s even less.”

“When you’re in bed at night and you hear the wind howling at 35 and it’s raining, you know these flags are getting hammered,” Bowler said. “With the sun, the outdoor flags don’t last.”

Mitchell said the new flags are expected to be heavy duty and stay raised until next Veterans Day, when they will be replaced annually.