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Local legionnaires raise flags in Sun City West

Posted 5/24/17

Phillip Rademacher of American Legion Post 94 pulls a flag from storage at the Sun City West Foundation building, 14465 R.H. Johnson Blvd. The donated flag was used for the burial ceremony of Lloyd …

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Local legionnaires raise flags in Sun City West

Phillip Rademacher of American Legion Post 94 pulls a flag from storage at the Sun City West Foundation building, 14465 R.H. Johnson Blvd. The donated flag was used for the burial ceremony of Lloyd Kilmer, a decorated World War II bomber pilot and legionnaire, who led the effort to display the flags in Sun City West.
By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia

Sprouting like cherry blossoms, American flags are unfurling this week along Sun City West thoroughfares.

“I don’t know anyone who has driven down R.H. Johnson and seen those flags and not been touched by the display,” said Recreation Centers of Sun City West General Manager Mike Whiting. “The flags reveal this as a community full of men and women proud of their country and proud of the service of those who gave their time, energy and sometimes their lives to protect it.”

The flags arrive in the community six times this year in observance of eight U.S. holidays thanks, in part, to American Legion Post 94. The practice began in 1988 on the urging of Lloyd Kilmer, a longtime Sun City West resident and decorated World War II bomber pilot, who died in 2016.

Working with Post 94, Mr. Kilmer led the effort, which initially saw the installation of hardware to hang 50 flags on light poles along R.H. Johnson Boulevard between Bell Road to Meeker Boulevard. The project was supported by donations from residents and local businesses and coordinated with Arizona Public Service, Maricopa County, Recreation Centers of Sun City West and Arizona Senator John McCain, according to information provided by Post 94.

“Our community and American Legion Post 94 continue to honor Lloyd Kilmer, who in 1988 began the work to obtain approval to display our flag on R.H. Johnson Boulevard,” said Post 94 Commander Gerry Berger. “Residents of Sun City West have been donating flags since then and now many others in our community continue to honor veterans by donating memorial flags to be flown on R.H. Johnson throughout the year.”

The first 50 flags, provide by Mr. McCain, came with a certificate stating that each had flown over the U.S. capitol. The Memorial Boulevard of Flags was dedicated on Presidents Day, Feb. 15, 1989 when Arizona Governor Evan Mecham proclaimed Sun City West “Flag City USA.”

Today, Post 94 manages the raising and lowering of 138 flags along the boulevard, which now also includes Meeker Boulevard from R.H. Johnson to Grand Avenue. Each flag is dedicated to a specific veteran and is labeled with their name, date of birth, date of death and branch of service, as well as the donor’s information.

Many of the flags displayed were used for a veteran’s burial ceremony. Any flag donor may request notification, so they can attend the ceremony and take photos as the flag is first raised in the community.

The legionnaires’ flag schedule for 2017 includes eight holiday observances — Presidents Day (Feb. 15-22), Memorial Day/Flag Day (May 24-Jun. 16), Independence Day (June 30-July 7), Labor Day/Patriot Day (Aug. 30-Sept. 6), Veterans Day (Nov. 8-15) and Pearl Harbor Day (Dec. 5-12).

Flag disposal

From left, Larry Leighton and Phillip Rademacher of American Legion Post 94 lower an American flag on the Memorial Boulevard of Flags along R.H. Johnson Boulevard. The group is preparing to raise 138 flags on light poles in the community in observance of Memorial Day and Flag Day.
U.S. Code, Title 4 states, “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

For residents possessing faded, tattered and torn flags, Post 94 teams up with the Northwest Valley Veterans Association to help residents properly dispose of them, according to Phillip Rademacher of Post 94.

“Post members take old flags to Sunland Cemetery and they allow us the use of burn barrels to dispose of them,” Mr. Rademacher stated by email.

The burning ceremony typically takes place twice each year and residents may drop off worn out flags, as well as those to be donated for display) at numerous locations in the community, including the Sunland Cemetery, Sheriff’s Posse of Sun City West, Sun City West Foundation, PORA or to some members of Post 94, he added.

Post 94 offers several options for those who wish to purchase a new flag. Contact Post 94 Adjutant Jim Heller at 623-975-4300 or jmh7116@aol.com.