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Small army of volunteers answer the call

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High school JROTC groups are among those that volunteer throughout the year to place 2,400 flags along Manteca’s streets.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED September 3, 2012 12:09 a.m.

Rocky Wilson and the United States Army Warrant Officers Association has never missed a day in 10 years of placing and collecting 102 flags on Main Street between Alameda and Center streets.

“We’re just a small group of 10 guys,” Wilson said.

Even so, they have faithfully logged more than 80 early morning and late afternoon volunteer gigs helping place some 2,402 flags since Flags over Manteca debuted a decade ago.

“It kind of gives us a patriotic feel,” Wilson said.

The Manteca Chamber of Commerce in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 launched the Flags over Manteca effort. The chamber raised $70,000 for the effort in less than seven weeks.

The goal was 2,400 flags as a reminder of the American servicemen that lost their lives in a previous attack on United States soil - Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Wilson said he’d like to see the Pearl Harbor flag distribution date restored. It was dropped a number of years ago after inclement weather several years in a row forced the cancellation of the flag distribution. Wet flags would create a mold problem when they are stored and would set the stage to ruin the $70,000 investment.

Wilson may get his wish this year. The chamber’s website has added back Pearl Harbor Day as one of 10 days the flags will be placed if the weather cooperates. The others are Martin Luther King’s Day, Presidents Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Patriots Day, and Veterans Day.

Les Thomas has coordinated the flag distribution since the start. He noted the project would not be possible without the small army of volunteers that get up before dawn’s early light to place the flags along Manteca’s major streets.

The first flag display was on Labor Day 2002 making today the official 10th anniversary of the first time the flags fluttered along Manteca’s main streets.

Groups such as the American Legion Post 249, Manteca Morning Rotary, Sunrise Kiwanis, the Marlow Family and the Manteca, East Union and Lathrop/Sierra high school JROTC groups have been there from the beginning as have the Knights of Columbus.

Other volunteer groups now helping as well include the Manteca Letter Carriers Association, Seniors Aiding Firefighting Effort with the Manteca Fire Department, Crossroads Church, Manteca Youth Focus, Boy Scouts, South County Crisis Center, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Dance & Cheer Stars, as well as numerous individual volunteers.

Mountain Valley Express stepped up 10 years ago to provide a truck trailer to store the flags. They also drop off the trailer at Yosemite Avenue and Center Street and the pick up the trailer for each flag distribution date. Monogram Magic embroidered the flags, Perez & Sons Cabinets stepped up to make the flag poles, and Luna Painting varnished them.

“It has taken a lot of good people to make (Flags over Manteca) work,” Thomas noted.

The next flag date is Sept. 11. If you’d like to volunteer to help contact the Manteca Chamber of Commerce at 823-6121.

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