By Mike Shadwick
RINGGOLD, Ga. - In 1970, an unmarked flag honoring fallen soldiers from around the county stood steadfast and strong on the lawn of the Catoosa County Courthouse.
Two years later, in 1972, 12 American flags were placed at Anderson Cemetery in Ringgold.
Today, members of the community, including Ringgold Mayor Joe Barger, off-duty police officers and members of Ridgeland High School's JROTC group are planting 866 flags throughout the county.
Every planted flag now is accompanied with an anchoring wooden cross bearing the name of a soldier who has, at some time, been a resident of Catoosa County and including the war in which he or she served.
"There are six pieces to each cross," said Steven Cox, who retired from the Tennessee National Guard and helped to plant some of the flags in Ringgold. "Three one-inch thick pieces running vertically and three running horizontally. Then they're routed to allow the flagpole to slide in from the top."
The flags are put up twice a year in Ringgold, once during May in the week before Memorial Day and again in November leading up to Veterans Day.
The commemorative flags, which have become a staple in the Ringgold community, can be seen along the original portion of the city on Nashville Street, Highway 151 from its beginning point at Highway 41 to where it crosses Interstate 75 and the portion of Highway 41 from Ringgold leading up to Capital Bank at the end of Battlefield Parkway.
Other locations include City Hall in Ringgold, the historic Ringgold Depot and Rossville Bank.
During the commencement of the upcoming 1890's Day festival, flags will be put on display to honor those killed in action.
"Thirty-seven flags will go up on the left side of the courthouse lawn," Mr. Barger said. "Three of those were killed in the most recent conflict in Iraq."
The mayor said anyone who has a deceased family member that served in any branch of the military is welcome to contact him personally to buy a flag for their relative for upcoming display dates.
Anyone who would like to help plant the flags also can call the mayor at 706-935-2019 or at City Hall at 706-935-3061.
"Fortunately, I have a lot of friends in the community," he smiled. "We couldn't do this without their help."
Mike Shadwick is based in Ringgold. E-mail him at Mike_Shadwick@yahoo.com.
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