Soledad flag raisers retire from service

For the last 16 years, every morning at sunrise and every evening at sunset, a dedicated volunteer on the Mount Soledad flag team would hoist and lower the United States flag at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial. Team members would transport the flag in a tightly folded triangle to and from the site, in accordance with U.S. Flag Code, and hoist it “briskly” and lower it “ceremoniously” every day.

Some brought their sleepy-eyed children, some brought their spouses, some came alone, but every day, these volunteers would do their part to ensure the flag flew at the base of the memorial. Each volunteer was assigned one day per week.

Electricity was installed this summer at the site, which allows for the flag to be illuminated at night, and therefore able to fly 24 hours a day.

To honor the 12 volunteers now retiring from their service (some had already been relieved of their post, but were honored nonetheless), the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association hosted a ceremony Sept. 16.

“Over the years, we have had a number of wonderful flag raisers; some are no longer with us. They were veterans and we thank them for their service,” said “flag boss” Jim Kitchel, who oversees the team. “These volunteers are dedicated, willing and reliable. Today marks the official end of our daily duties.”

One of them, Shawn Cromwell, brought his children, Cameron and Jeremy, with him every Friday for the last two years to help raise and lower the flag. As a result, his daughter is an “expert” flag folder.

“We would come up here because it’s a beautiful place, and when I found out they were in need of volunteers to help with the flag, we thought it would be a great experience for my children and I to honor our country and our veterans,” he said.

At the ceremony, each volunteer brought the flag they would typically hoist, perfectly folded, to watch the permanent flag go up. They will keep it in case the new one gets damaged and needs to be replaced.

Although this service opportunity has come and gone, Kitchel said there are many volunteer needs at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial.

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Flag Display Protocol

■ Previous to Flag Day, June 14, 1923, there were no federal or state regulations governing display of the U.S. Flag.

■ On June 14, 1923, the National Flag Code was adopted by the National Flag Conference attended by representatives of the Army and Navy, which had evolved their own procedures, and some 66 other national groups.

■ Minor changes were made a year later during the Flag Day 1924 Conference. It was not until June 22, 1942 that Congress passed a joint resolution (amended Dec. 22, 1942) that also included conduct during the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, and manner of delivery.