By VERNON ROBISON
Moapa Valley Progress
‘Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
National Anthem: Vs. 2
Today is Flag Day. This national holiday commemmorates the adoption of the flag of the United States. It was originally adopted by resolution of the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
Of course, flags will be flying all over town today in celebration of this patriotic holiday. But the most noticed, and perhaps best beloved, flag in town is the one perched high on a rocky peak looking over State Highway 169 just north of Logandale.
That flag, which has become a point of pride for many local residents, first appeared in that location in 2009. And it has proudly remained posted there in its remote location, almost continuously, since that time.
It was first put there by the family of a local veteran as a welcome home after a long stay in the hospital.
In his youth, Charlie Johnson had served in the Army after the Korean War. Many years later, he spent his final years living here with his wife Verda in Moapa Valley.
Charlie became ill in 2009 and was admitted to the hospital. His family wanted to honor him and give him hope and encouragement upon his return home. So they posted the flag in a prominent spot overlooking the only entrance into the community. The expected that it would be the first thing Charlie saw getting off of the interstate on the way into the valley when they brought him home.
Sadly, Charlie never made that trip. He passed away on July 9, 2009 before coming home. He never saw the flag on the hillside.
And yet, here it is, eight years later; and the flag still flies from this same promontory. That fact has not been by chance. And it has not been without a lot of work and efforts.
At the top of this lonely hill, any flag would suffer at the whim of the weather. The wind is especially tough on the flag in that location. Flags posted there don’t last very long. To keep it there, someone has had to regularly maintain and replace it for all of these years.
For a couple of years after Charlie’s death, his family continued to maintain the spot. Members of the family would go up about twice a year, in memory of Charlie, to replace the flag. A note of explanation and a guest book was left at the site so that visitors to the spot could document that they had been there.
But eventually, the logistics of Charlie’s family made it difficult to continue the tradition. The family flag was finally taken down and the guest book carefully removed and preserved by the family.
Not long after that, though, a flag reappeared at the location. It continues to fly there to this day.
Just exactly what the precise chronology has been for caretakers of this legacy is somewhat unclear. But last week the PROGRESS was able to run down the person who is now keeping the flag flying. This person is a veteran who lives in the Moapa Valley community. And he preferred to remain anonymous.
Over the past several years, this veteran has gone up to the spot to replace the flag every 2-3 months. There are no roads leading all the way up to that particular spot. The closest one is actually the State Highway itself. So this person said that he usually parks a vehicle at the side of the highway and simply climbs to the top.
“I loved the story that it was there as a welcome home message to a veteran and then he never made it back home,” the anonymous veteran said. “I have a lot of friends who fought for their country and were lost in action and never made it back home. So it is particularly meaningful to me.”
Much of what this anonymous veteran has done has been at his own expense. Although he did present the idea to the members of a local veterans organization. His comrades there agreed to set aside a small fund to purchase flags and other needed equipment at the site.
The anonymous veteran said that the size of the flag he puts up there often depends upon the season. A smaller 3’x 5’ flag tends to last longer in the lashing winds that go on up there, he said. But when it comes time for patriotic holidays he will replace it with something a little bigger. The flag flying currently is 5’x 8’. The anonymous veteran hopes to be able to go up again before the Independence Day holiday with an even larger flag.
Over time, the anonymous veteran has also added other features to the site. With a desire to illuminate the flag at night, he installed solar power lights. There are lights that shine up at the flag, and also lights which shine down toward the road to draw attention to the spot at night, he said.
“I feel like it is just a way of saying ‘Welcome Home. Welcome back to the valley’,” the veteran said. “I’ve had people say it makes them proud to see it up there. And even after dark, they know that the flag is flying proudly up there. I think it is a beautiful symbol for our community.”
The anonymous veteran said he was hesitant to reveal his identity because he didn’t want the flag’s placement to be about him. “I feel like it is much bigger than one person,” he said. “It is not just about me and it is not just about the one veteran whose family put it up there. It is about everyone and it is for everybody in town. That is the thing that makes our valley special: the people.”