Peru, IN – The American flag is not just a symbol of the United States, it is a symbol of freedom, liberty and human rights to people all over the world. Patriotic Americans have great respect for the symbol of our nation, but none more than a Veteran who served their nation in the armed forces.
Hundreds of thousands of flags fly proudly over government buildings, businesses and even private residences all over our country. But what happens to those flags when they become worn and need to be replaced? According to the United States Flag Code, when a flag is so tattered that it no longer fits to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning. But one organization has a better use for those retired Flags.
Mickie Sayor is the local representative of a national organization called “Stars for Our Troops” that uses some of these retired American flags to say thank you to those who have served and protected our nation in uniform.
“Stars for our Troops” a group of volunteers that are patriotic, who take old tattered and faded US Flags, retired from service and pass the legacy of their embroidered Stars to those that defended them.
They cut the fields of blue, known as the canton, from these old flags, then scissor off the embroidered stars. Into a plastic bag go a star and an explanation:
"I am part of an American flag that has flown over the USA. I can no longer fly. The sun and wind caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten."
“We are taking something that to us is still beautiful, still meaningful and giving it to Veterans and first responders, we say the troops, but we mean anyone willing to sign that line saying they are willing to serve and protect,” according to Saylor. “We feel it is very important that they know they are appreciated.”
When the stars have been removed and packaged, the remained of the flag is burned according to the flag code.
“Stars for our Troops” is a 501c3 Charitable Organization that was started by Susan Wells in Florida in 2005. The organization has grown and now has over two hundred star makers across the country and has given approximately 300,000 stars in 2017 alone.
You can learn more about the national organization by clicking HERE.
Mickie has been involved with the group for about two years. She comes from a military family with her Dad having served in the U.S. Air Force, her husband who is a retired U.S. Navy veteran and her son who currently serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
“I’ve been around the military my whole life, so when he went into boot camp, my son, I had heard about the stars, so I looked on their website, got in touch with Susan and she got me started,” said Saylor.
Mickie estimates in those two years, she has given away around three hundred stars to Veterans.
“To cut them, we recruit our friends, our families. I actually have a group of wonderful ladies that are at Miller’s Merry Manor and we have star parties and they cut the stars for me,” said Mickie. “I have a lot of community help to make sure we get them cut for our bigger events or anytime we see a Veteran."
The ladies at Miller’s became aware of the program due to Mickie’s volunteer work there with her English Bulldog therapy dog.
One of those bigger events was the “Sandbox” reunion for Desert Storm Vets that was recently held in Kokomo. (You can see some photos of that event below.) She also plans to have a booth set up at the car show that is happening at the Peru Fire Station on Canal Street on July 4th.
“We will be handing them out throughout the day,” according to Saylor. “We’re basically just there to support them (the Veterans) and let them know that there are people in the community that know their sacrifice and appreciate what they do.”
One of the most memorable times Mickie has given a star to a Veteran was recently when she was in Kroger’s here in Peru. While shopping she saw gentleman was waiting on his pharmacy order and he had a World War 1 hat on. Mickie stopped to thank him for his service and give him a star.
“I gave him one of the stars and he flipped it over and he read it and then looked at me very teary-eyed and said I was the very first person who had ever thanked him for his service,” said Saylor. “I just thought, what a shame. How many years has this man been back and nobody has taken the time to acknowledge the fact that he was willing to do what he needed to do to protect us and we couldn’t take the time to tell him that we appreciated it.”
The group is always in need of donated flags for use in the program. The flags must be the type with embroidered stars to be used in the program.
Mickie and her small group of volunteers are also getting ready for a large gathering of Vietnam Veterans’ Reunion in the fall.
“There’s going to be a huge need for flags,” said Mickie.
Her small group of volunteers are not just preparing for the July 4th car show but are also getting ready for a large gathering of Vietnam Veterans who are having a reunion in Kokomo this fall.
If you are local and have a flag you wish to donate or want to know more about this program, you can contact Mickie at 765-226-0882.