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Honoring Manteca’s ‘Flag Man’

Chamber giving Thomas special recognition

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Honoring Manteca’s ‘Flag Man’

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin Les Thomas takes a break while loading flags back into the Manteca Chamber of Commerce's Flags Over Manteca truck trailer at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street.

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POSTED April 20, 2009 12:47 a.m.
By DENNIS WYATT
Managing editor of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
In the dawn’s early light this Memorial Day Les Thomas will be at his post without fail.
He’ll be joined by a dedicated small army of volunteers who will take the flags he hands out in multiples of four and load them into pick-up trucks, SUVs, and vans.
They will then drive to the four corners of Manteca’s main streets from the city’s heart at Yosemite and Main. They will take the flags one-by-one walking down the streets removing rubber bands in search of pre-drilled holes. They will then place the flags in the hole while carefully unfurling Old Glory as the sun rises in the east. Nine hours later, the same volunteers will return to carefully retrieve the 2,400 flags and return them to Thomas who makes sure they are all stored correctly.
Just to be on the safe side after the time to return the flags has passed, he’ll lock up the truck trailer donated by Mountain Valley Express and drive the streets to make sure that no one inadvertently missed a flag. Occasionally groups’ volunteers will get waylaid. That’s when Thomas will retrieve the flags himself and return them to storage.
“I love the flag,” Thomas said. “I’m very patriotic.”
It is much more than that, however, for this Army veteran of the Korean War who fell in love with Manteca when he moved here 20 years ago to work on the building of the Yellow Freight terminal in Tracy.
Thomas said the flag represents everything about the United States – the people who have fought and died for the country, those who have served, those who have labored to build America, pioneers, bold leaders and just plain every day families and workers who play a role in making the U.S. what it is today.
The Manteca Chamber of Commerce leadership believes Thomas represents the best among Manteca’s volunteer spirit.
That is why he is being honored with the Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s Distinguished Service Award during the 86th annual installation and awards dinner on Saturday, June 6, starting at 6 p.m. at The Emory, 1028 W. Yosemite Ave. Tickets are $40 for the black tie optional event. Tickets are available at the chamber office by calling 823-6121.
Jack Snyder is receiving the chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Eric Murtrey will be installed as president replacing Kirk Dall.
Those nominated for large business of the year are Doctors Hospital of Manteca, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, Mt. Valley Express, Wal-Mart, Merrill Gardens at Manteca, Bank of Stockton, Carl’s Junior Warehouse, and Pacific Gas & Electric.
Nominees for small business of the year are Raymus Homes, Monogram Magic, Perez & Son, Chez Sheri, AKF, Holiday Inn Express, and State Farm-Crystal Downs.
The Mabel Brocchini Service Award nominees are Pastor Mike Dillman, John Coburn, Kirk Dall, and Dave Byrd.
The Gladys Brock Chamber Service Award nominees are the Manteca Fire Department, The Commons at Union Ranch, Chip DeVito, and Nick Founts.
The non-profit business award nominees are Mamma Ministry, Second Harvest Food Bank, Manteca CAPS, Agape Villages, South County Crisis Center, and Knights of Columbus.
Thomas part of
Flags Over Manteca from the start
“It is incredible that he has been so faithful,” noted Manteca Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Debby Moorhead. “He hasn’t missed a day since Flags Over Manteca’s inception.”
Flags Over Manteca was the chamber’s response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. They raised almost $60,000 to get the flag project in place to mark the first anniversary of those attacks which has now become known as Patriots Day. There are eight other days flags are placed out if weather permits. They are Presidents Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day.
 Moorhead said Thomas goes out of his way to make sure the flags are accounted for, not damaged and given the proper respect.
“It’s not just his service with Flags Over Manteca but Les goes out of his way to help people,” Moorhead said.
Thomas is a member of the Knights of Columbus and a past grand night. He also was actively involved with the Manteca Dolphins for eight years when his kids swam for the parks and recreation team. He continues to serve the Dolphins as the head timekeeper for home meets.

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