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Relatives of service members honored by Legion

May 26, 2003|BY SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Michael Flynn has been sending care packages containing Doritos and compact discs of music he performs to his brother, Bryan, who is serving in Iraq, but Sunday he received something his brother won't get until he returns home: a Blue Star Service Banner.

The banner, designed and patented in 1917 by a World War I officer, has become the unofficial symbol of a child in active military service.

Flynn was one of about a dozen relatives of active servicemen with local relatives who were given the banners Sunday at Morris Frock American Legion Post 42 on Northern Avenue as part of an event sponsored by the post's auxiliary unit.

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The event followed the Legion and auxiliary's annual Memorial Day program in front of the Washington County Courthouse, which the legion commander said was attended by about 40 people.

When Bryan Flynn, 24, a first lieutenant in the Army, calls and sends e-mail, he asks his family to send care packages, including his favorite chips, Michael Flynn said.

His brother has had stomach problems and has had only one shower in three months, he said.

The hardest part for the family has been the "stress of not knowing what is going on," Flynn said.

Getting the banner is very meaningful, he said. The family will put the banner on the window of its home and give the banner to Bryan Flynn when he returns, he said.

Jim Evans said his brother, John, 45, was scheduled to retire next month from the Army, after serving for more than 10 years.

Instead, Evans picked up a banner Sunday and the military has said his brother, who is in Iraq, may not be able to retire until 2033, due to the war in Iraq, he said. The date is the Army's way of saying his retirement is on hold indefinitely, he said.

"I am very proud of him and I miss him terribly," Evans told the crowd of about 50 people at the American Legion post on Sunday.

Evans praised the American Legion for distributing for free the blue star banners, which let the community know there is a member of the household proudly serving in the U.S. military.

"I think it is awesome. It is a great honor that there are those still not forgetting," he said.

After the war has been declared over and there is less media coverage of Iraq, it is touching "to see a group remember that they are still there, they are not missing in action," Evans said.

His brother, who also fought in the last Gulf War, has been traveling between Iraq and Kuwait and has not had a shower in three weeks, he said.

Evans plans to put the banner up at his business, Medical Services Inc., at 1075-E Sherman Ave., he said

The Legion post gave a larger version of the banner to Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner, who said he will have it flown at City Hall.

Breichner said he remembers that after people enlisted in the military in World War II, their families displayed blue star banners.

But he does not remember seeing banners flown during the Korean or Vietnam wars, he said.

"It is a great tradition and I want to thank the American Legion for reviving it and bringing it back," he said.

Linda Caudell, spokeswoman for the auxiliary, said the group would like to give the banners to all local families of service members on active duty.

Families still can get a banner by calling her at 301-790-3566 or 301-790-0100, she said.

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