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FLAGS OVER MANTECA

Faces of America come together

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FLAGS OVER MANTECA

Paraminder Singh is at the front of the line returning flags Saturday to the Flags Over Manteca truck trailer.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED November 13, 2017 2:05 a.m.

In the foggy pre-dawn darkness on Saturday, the face of America shined brighter than the green, yellow and red orbs of light created by traffic signals at Yosemite Avenue and Main Street.

uA fifth generation Hispanic American who served in the Vietnam War.

uAn electronics worker whose ancestors five generations ago made their way to these shores.

uA third generation Punjabi American businessman.

uTeens from the East Union High JROTC.

uRetirees, laborers, merchants, and elected officials.

uCatholics, Protestants, Muslims, agnostics, Jewish, atheists, and more.

uMen, women, boys, girls, straight, and gay.

uDemocrats, Republicans, and independents.

They slipped out of the comfort of beds and warm houses on a weekend morning to pay tribute to the 18.8 million men and women who are alive today who have served or are serving in the military. Veterans Day, in a bigger sense , reflects  the 51 million some experts estimate have served America in times of war and peace since the dawn of the republic in 1776.

They were there to place 2,403 American flags — the number initially picked to represent the 2,403 that died on Dec. 7, 1941 in the attack on Pearl Harbor — along Main Street, Yosemite Avenue and several small stretches of other streets around Manteca.

It’s a ritual conducted 10 times a year that was born in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Manteca Chamber of Commerce raised $60,000 — or the inflation adjusted equivalent of $83,400 today — in a five week period to purchase flags, poles and drill the necessary holes in sidewalks. What drove the chamber wasn’t just a desire to remember 9-11 or to honor those who have fallen and others that have served. It was to underscore that America is ours at a great price whether it is the blood of soldiers, the sweat of labor, or  martyred leaders. The fabric fashioned into flags with the 13 red and white stripes for the original colonies and the 50 white stars for each of the current 50 states against a dark blue represents a great sacrifice in both times of war and times of peace.

Talk with any of the volunteers and you’ll be hard pressed to find one — if that— who will claim — America is perfect.  While they view the country differently they see the flag as a symbol of sacrifice, endurance, and how we have evolved in a never-ending 241-year struggle to keep improving the great experiment the signers of the Declaration of Independence called the United States of America.

Throw the hundreds of volunteers into a debate and their views, hopes, fears, dreams, and experiences would create a wild mosaic. Yet they all seem to agree the flag is the end sum of all of us regardless of wealth, education, ancestry, faith or lack thereof, gender, skin tone, or whatever way one may choose to divide people.  They also will tell you the union the flag represents isn’t perfect. The flag waves during times of war, times of political strife, times of great social strife, and times of peace.

Few flags, if any, were designed from the outset to grow. It is why the star field changes every time a state — or states — are added.

 It is the same mentality that guides the nation. America — just like the flag that has a set founding field of red and white stripes to represent the 13 founding colonies — has founding principles that never change. Yet as the union grows the flag field of stars changes just like our nation evolves.

The Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s marquee flag project was never about blind patriotism but about the values, sacrifices, and sweat that have bought is altogether.

The flags flying on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Patriots Day are just as important as when they fly on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Pearl Harbor Day.

If you would like to assist with future efforts to place and retrieve flags to be a part of a Manteca tradition now in its 16th year, contact the Manteca Chamber of Commerce at 823.6121.

 

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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