The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 18, 2013

Cambria may have to wait for arrival of flag markers

Kathy Mellott
kmellott@tribdem.com

EBENSBURG — From all indications, the thousands of small flags placed every year on the graves of military veterans buried in Cambria County cemeteries should arrive with time to spare before the Memorial Day holiday.

But arrival of the metal markers to hold the flags is uncertain.

The county commissioners last week awarded the bid for the 44,640 flags to Flag Zone of the Reading area at a cost of $22,320.

Cambria County also is purchasing 2,550 flag markers at a price of $6.10 each for a total cost of $15,555.

The markers, distributed every year to veterans organizations and funeral directors for veterans who have recently passed away and to replace broken or worn out holders, will be arriving in two separate orders, Veterans Services Director Nancy Tavalsky said.

That purchase, from Frank Detwiler & Sons of Kimberton, Chester County, may be a little problematic.

Detwiler tells Tavalsky that his “property is being sold out from under him and he has to move.”

But any holdup in the flag markers will not have the impact of no flags, said Denny Cruse of VFW Post 155 in Geistown.

“We’ll be able to live without them,” Cruse said of the markers. “We’ll be able to get around that.”

Tavalsky is aggressive about getting the flags on time this year. As soon as county approval came through, she sent Flag Zone the purchase order via fax and a certified letter.

“My little green card, it came back today,” Tavalsky said Monday of the proof Flag Zone had received the order.

Last year veterans organizations grew anxious when the company repeatedly delayed shipping the 38,000 flags ordered by Tavalsky, something they reportedly did for Somerset and Bedford counties as well.

Reasons given by Flag Zone for the holdup were machine breakdowns and delay in cloth deliveries. The flags were expected by April 2.

With many American Legions and VFWs eager to get the flags out by the first week of May, some were crying foul when the shipment had not arrived by the second week of May.

The Geistown veterans went so far as to take out a newspaper ad warning that flags might not be placed in time for Memorial Day.

But arrive they did – on May 16.

Tavalsky said she is doing all she can to make sure they come in a timely fashion, including providing proof that she ordered them in plenty of time.

The flags are just a small way of calling attention to the thousands of fallen veterans in the county, Cruse said.

“It’s about the people that are lying in the ground,” he said.

While most of the flags are allowed to stay next to the monuments much of the year, Tavalsky said because of what they symbolize and the work involved in getting them set out, she is encouraging cemeteries to let them out longer.

“They get tattered, but I just think cleanup day should be after Veterans Days,” she said of the Nov. 11 day of remembrance.

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