WAYNEDALE GEARS UP FOR MEMORIAL DAY PARADE WITH WEEKEND CELEBRATIONS

Waynedale Memorial Day ParadeJudy Fry is a Waynedale fixture if you ask the bartender at American Legion Post #241 on Bluffton Road. It was last Friday when she sat down for a cold beer after a day’s worth of yard work. But, it wasn’t just the cold drink that brought her to the Legion, it was the load of American flags she had in the trunk of her car. When Fry used to work at Umber’s Hardware she was the cashier who would ring up customers buying the celebrated star spangled banners in all different sizes. Fry grew up in a military family and even her own children serve their country in the Armed Forces. That’s why she always told people to bring their flags back to her when they needed to be replaced so she could make sure the used flags were disposed of properly. For years, when Waynedale residents and business owners alike thought that their frayed and tattered flags were ready to be disposed of, they would bring the flags back to Fry. There would be a hundred every year that the Umber’s customers would bring to her at the store. She no longer works there so people who needed their flags disposed of started bringing them to her house.

“I don’t mind, but if I knew who was dropping them off, I’d tell them to bring them to the Legion,” says Fry. On making sure the flags are disposed of properly, says Fry, “It’s an honor. It’s just something we need to do. We need to educate people not to throw used flags away, but to make sure they are disposed of properly.”

Bill Long agrees. Long is the adjutant at Post #241 and he says flag disposal ceremonies are part of every Legion, but each Legion Post can decide how often they conduct the ceremony. At Post #241, the flag disposal ceremony normally happens once a year, during Memorial Day Weekend. The ceremony is complicated with a lot of steps, and involves the Post’s senior officers and their Honor Guard. To Long and the rest of the Legion family, making sure flags are properly disposed of is part of their American heritage. “It’s us. The flag represents our nation. The flag tells anyone around the world who we are and we have to respect that…we have to respect 239 years of veterans who died because their country asked them to,” says Long. Long added, “Some members even look for flags that need to be replaced in neighborhoods or flying in front of businesses.”

Dave McAfee lives in Waynedale, belongs to both the Legion and AmVets Post #33, and looks for flags. “If I’m driving around and I see one, I’ll stop and talk to someone and say ‘let’s get you a new one and recycle this one,'” says McAfee.

If you own a flag, and it becomes faded, or begins to fray, the flag needs to be disposed of properly at a ceremony like the one held Saturday, May 23, at the Legion starting at noon. Dave Miller is 241’s Post Commander, and he estimates nearly 1500 flags were dropped off at the post, and will be disposed of, along with about 500 flags from other legion posts in the area. Other legion posts often bring their flags to the Waynedale Post to avoid complaints from neighbors about the smoke. Miller says conducting ceremonies like their flag disposal are important to the Legion because it helps instill citizenship.

“We’re going to have JROTC, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Post’s Junior Shooting League here so we can instill these traditions into them and as they grow up and replace older members we know the Legion’s values will live on.”

Miller says ceremonies like the flag disposal are one reason Post #241 is growing, almost 250 new members last year alone, while other posts are shrinking. “These ceremonies are an important part of our outreach to new members. The posts that are having problems are the ones that lose an average of 30 members a year to death and only sign up one or two new members a year. We don’t have that problem in Waynedale because of how aggressive our Sons of the American Legion and our other officers are in recruiting new, younger members through programs like Junior Shooting, teaching firearm safety, and other programs,” says Miller.

But, it’s not just the annual flag disposal ceremony – the annual parade on Monday is the community’s signature event.

Participants in the parade begin to line-up on Memorial Day at Waynedale United Methodist Church at 8:30 a.m., with the parade starting at 9:00 a.m. said AmVets Post #33’s Dave McAfee. McAffee is helping AmVets organize this year’s parade.

In Waynedale, each year the American Legion Post #241, AmVets Post #33, and the VFW #1421 alternate coordinating the parade. The parade will travel up Old Trail Road and finish at Prairie Grove Cemetery. When the parade finishes at the cemetery, deceased Veterans will be honored with a ceremony at the cemetery.

“Memorial Day parades are important because they honor our veterans. Freedom isn’t free. We do this to celebrate the people who sacrificed their lives so we could have our freedom,” says McAfee.

Proud of Waynedale’s enthusiastic support of Memorial Day Weekend events, like the parade, McAfee says the community lines up along the parade route sometimes “three and four deep.” Helping organize the parade is a lot of work, but McAfee says it’s worth it to create an event anyone can participate in so long as they start lining up at 8:30 a.m.

At press time, McAfee had confirmed the Wayne High School Band would be in the parade, along with fire trucks, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, antique cars, and other local businesses and groups. Maybe even clowns.

Daniel Smith and his wife Carlene were having a beer with Judy Fry. “It’s not the longest parade around, but it’s good enough for us,” says Smith. Then Fry added “…we’re glad to have it.”

Brandon D. Schwarze

Brandon D. Schwarze

Brandon Schwarze is a Fort Wayne native and an award winning, nationally published Journalist and Freelance Writer living in Fort Wayne. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer