American Legion to place flags on county veterans' graves

By Greg Miller

STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

   Members of American Legion Watauga Post 49 on Sunday will place flags on many of the graves of veterans in cemeteries in Carter County.
   Each year on Memorial Day weekend, the American Legion places flags on the graves of all the veterans that they can locate in the county's cemeteries.
   Commander Dean Perry estimates that about 50 veterans will help place the flags. Participants will meet at Hardee's in Elizabethton at 6 a.m. for breakfast before heading to the cemeteries.
   On a national level, the American Legion "is the largest lobbying group that there is to lobby Congress for veterans' benefits," Perry said.
   Locally, Post 49 "supports programs at VA Medical Center for disabled veterans." Each year, the group makes a "sizable contribution" for a Christmas party. Post 49 and its auxiliary also provide clean underwear and socks, as well as other clothing items, for veterans at the VA and local nursing homes.
   Perry says 600 cemeteries are located in Carter County. "I've found cemeteries in the last year that you'd have to have a helicopter to get to," he said.
   Post 49, Perry estimates, has approximately 235 members, who meet on the first Tuesday of each month. Members eat dinner, have a business session "and discuss projects that we do in the community."
   Post 49 was chartered shortly after World War I, according to Perry. Judge Ben Allen, Buck Shell, Ted Wingfield and Bob Harvey were among the "prominent veterans" who helped form the group.
   The purpose of the American Legion, Perry said, "is to promote good citizenship through the educational system through such things as an oratorical contest" and an event called Boys' State, which provides an opportunity for young men to learn more about government.
   Post 49 is always open to new members, who must have an honorable discharge. Veterans of all services may become members.
   Perry invites all veterans to help place the flags. For more information, call 542-2054.