By Donald Lachman, Special Projects Coordinator, and Andrea Talmadge, Regional Coordinator
Richard White, an Army Veteran and past commander from the American Legion Post 227, resides near the Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park, once designated the “Arlington of the West.” As a child, he had visited this expansive cemetery on the edge of Seattle with his mother to place flowers on his grandparents’ grave. Now, he has accepted a new mission, The Veterans Flag Project. He participates in leading a group of people and organizations whose vision is to educate and ensure U.S. flags adorning the graves of Veterans are given the care and handling that is due and required under the law.
This unique mission was formed in January 2022 as Richard walked the cemetery with his dog and observed hundreds of U.S. flags piled into the cemetery’s dumpsters. At that moment, Richard decided we could do better than using common garbage receptacles to dispose of worn flags. He also understood this violated the U.S. Flag Code, Title 4, Section 8 which states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” He recognized this presented an opportunity to educate, involve youth and the community, and honor our Veterans.
The management of Evergreen Washelli enthusiastically supported Richard’s efforts. He shared his vision with another leader from Post 227, Richard Garrison, who quickly recruited local Elks Clubs to the mission. Within weeks, this working partnership had grown to include Boy Scouts and multiple American Legion Posts and Elks Clubs. Protocols were adopted and tasks assigned for the triaging, restoration, and proper retiring of the flag in a fire pit. In less than three months, the Veterans Flag Project washed and prepared over 7,000 flags for deployment again to the graves of veterans. During that same period, almost 3,000 flags were properly disposed of in a fire pit with a ceremony, as required.
The vision of the project is to continue to educate citizens on how to properly care for and honor unwanted or worn U.S. flags. The idea is to schedule dates with a participating local company where the flags can be collected for proper restoration or retirement honors.