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Chambersburg, Pa.'s giant American flag to fly 24 hours a day

May 28, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

An American flag reaching 30-by-60 feet was cranked up to the top of a 150-foot flagpole over a small, newly sodded circle in Chambersburg Memorial Park on Monday afternoon.

Necks craned, faces looked up and the Wayne Band of Waynesboro, Pa., played the National Anthem as the flag crept upward before a crowd estimated at several hundred.

As the flag reached the top of the flagpole a breeze, as if on cue, drifted across from the southeast and unfurled the starry banner.

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A lump formed in Tracy Baer's throat as he watched from below. The raising of the flag culminated three years of untiring efforts by Baer.

"When it went up and the breeze kicked it out, it was incredible," said Baer, chairman of the Franklin County Flag Association. The association was behind the effort that raised $40,000 to buy the flag and the pole and to fund a project to keep the flag and its successors flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Baer figures the flag, which cost about $1,200, will last 10 to 12 months in constant exposure. It's made of nylon and weighs about 75 pounds, he said.

It took the work of about six people to hook it to the pole, draw it out of the barrel it came in and keep it off the ground.

The park sits directly across from Interstate 81. The flag will be easily visible to motorists driving by in both directions.

"It will show all who pass by this spot that patriotism is alive and well in Franklin County," said G. Warren Elliott, president of the Franklin County Commissioners, in remarks at the ceremony.

He credited Baer, who he called "a driving force of patriotism," for his efforts in seeing the flag project through.

"This giant flag ... will be on display as an educational resource to our community and will serve as a source of inspiration for all who see it," Baer said in remarks he delivered.

David White, executive director of the National Flag Foundation based in Pittsburgh, said in his remarks that he wondered what the Confederate Army would have thought had they seen the big flag flying over Chambersburg when it made its move into Pennsylvania.

Confederates burned Chambersburg in 1864 in retaliation for Union destruction in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

White said the American flag was the symbol shown in Germany when the Berlin Wall came down and the one used by Chinese dissidents in Tiananmen Square.

"It's recognized around the world as a symbol of freedom," White said.

The Borough of Chambersburg held its Memorial Day observance Monday morning with a parade from Fifth Avenue, west along Lincoln Way East to the Public Square where speeches were heard, said William Vandrew, past commander of the Chambersburg Area Joint Veterans.

Col. Robert W. English III, commander of Letterkenny Army Depot, was the keynote speaker during the morning ceremonies. English also led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance at the flag-raising ceremony in the park Monday afternoon.

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