Imagine 200 flags lining the marsh in front of the USS Yorktown, waving in the wind of the Charleston Harbor breeze all Veterans Day weekend long. This vision may become a reality thanks to the East Cooper Breakfast Rotary Club’s (ECBRC) efforts to bring Flags for Heroes to Mount Pleasant.
Each flag would stand firm in the ground from Friday, Nov. 8 through Tuesday, Nov. 12 in honor of the Veterans that have served for the United States of America. The Rotary’s site says the display is meant to symbolize everything that the United States of America stands for: People of one nation under God joining together for the benefit of all.
Ted Chestnut was recently appointed president of the ECBRC nearly three months ago after serving in the club for six years. Chestnut explained that the club has done various fundraising events over the years, but they wanted to find one that would grow in the community with potential to scale. Simultaneously, Charleston County Public Library’s East Cooper District Manager, John Walden, recently joined the club. Chestnut said Walden told the Rotary about the Flags for Heroes program that he’d done with his Rotary Club in Maryland. They discussed the vision of the flags and then Walden showed them a video of all of the flags lined up on a patriotic holiday lined up for Veterans.
“I was hooked. We saw this as a way to raise money that we use to carry out service projects in the community. But beyond that, the event itself is a way to honor Veterans, local heroes and America,” Chestnut said. “It’s a feel good, win-win thing for this community and for the club.”
The club decided that Veterans Day was a good time to begin the project. Chestnut said they are getting the logistics of the project worked out as quickly as they can, given their quick decision to pull this together. The club has a goal for 200 flags to be sponsored and planted at Patriots Point on Veterans Day weekend.
“I think this is the best place in town for this particular event. Flags in front of the aircraft carrier is going to be quite a scene. Over the next month during October, we’ll be pushing this within our club and then from our club into the community to build awareness for the program and get sponsors lined up for the flags,” he said.
The club anticipates this fundraiser to continue for years to come around all patriotic holidays, such as Veterans Day, Memorial Day and July 4th. The club will purchase all of the flags and poles through sponsorship contributions this year. Then, when they do the fundraiser again, they’ll pull the same flags and poles out of proper storage and use the full sponsorship money from future events for the club’s service projects in the community.
The cost of an individual sponsorship is $50 for a single flag and pole. There are also corporate sponsorship opportunities available that include advertising and promotional benefits that will be fulfilled by the Rotary.
Chestnut said they have had a few generous people already step up to commit the funds to purchase a majority of the flags. Due to this, at least half of the flag’s cost purchase is covered. The club plans to pull about $22 for each flag sold this year to put towards the club’s service projects. Then in the future they’ll put $50 of every sponsorship towards projects since they won’t have to purchase the flags and poles.
“It’s kind of an investment this year,” Chestnut explained.
The money they do raise this year will go to a few mainstay projects that the club participates in each year; such as Happy Feet in the fall, Toys for Tots in the winter and other organic service projects helping schools and various groups in the community.
The club will have 200 flags available for sponsorship. If the demand exceeds 200, Chestnut said they will buy more flags and poles at the end of October. A cap on the number of flags has not been determined until the club reviews the logistical side of planting the flags at Patriots Point. When you drive into Patriots Point the right side of the Yorktown, there is an embankment with three cannons along the parking area is where the club will place the Flags for Heroes. They will make a grid pattern once they determine how many flags receive sponsorship.
“Veterans Day is a special day here. We have flags that line our pier everyday but to put them up there by the cannons where everybody can see them as they pull into Patriots Point really creates the environment for patriotism that we’re about here at Patriots Point,” said Patriots Point Public Information Officer, Chris Hauff. “On Veterans Day you can’t find a better location for that kind of patriotism and to honor our veterans.”
Hauff said that Veterans Day is the perfect opportunity to honor and celebrate Veterans for all they do to keep our country safe throughout the world. Veterans will have free entry to Patriots Point on Veterans Day.
The Rotary Club will refund the Patriots Point parking fee for anyone who sponsors a flag that wishes to see the display during Veterans Day weekend.
Hauff explains that he has seen similar flag displays at other locations before and is excited to see Flags for Heroes at Patriots Point thanks to the East Cooper Breakfast Rotary Club.
“There’s something impactful about seeing that many flags right there. The red, white and blue; a warship with the esteem that the Yorktown has and the Laffey right there on the Charleston Harbor. It’s the perfect time of year with nice fall temperatures. We really hope people come out to reflect and thank veterans for what they do,” Hauff added.
Chestnut said Patriots Point has been very welcoming and great to work with. He’s looking forward to placing Flags for Heroes in this patriotic setting.
“I’m thrilled of the potential for the fundraiser now and for future years. I’d love to see it become sort of a proponent of our area of Mount Pleasant as we get closer towards these veteran, and national holidays, something that people will remember, recognize and think of Veterans and Rotary when you see it,” Chestnut said.
There are two ways for the community to get involved with this Flags for Heroes project. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit charlestonrotaryflags.org. Chestnut says the website will include sponsorship information, dates and more closer to the project launch. To see the video Walden shared with the ECBRC of the Centerville Rotary Club in Maryland’s Flags for Heroes, click here.
The ECBRC also sponsors the East Cooper Rotaract Club, which is a young professionals group of people under 30 with a service above self mentality making a difference in the community. The Rotaract Club meets separately, but both groups support one another. Chestnut said they'll be helping ECBRC with the Flags for Heroes project. Any individuals interested in joining the Rotoract Club should email email@example.com or visit ecbrotary.org/east-cooper-rotaract-club.