Flags on parade

Veterans club shows its pride

Created date

October 28th, 2019
Maris Grove’s color guard on parade (from left) Leonard Mendel, George Huemmrich, Paul Gaver, and Bob Richmond.

Maris Grove’s color guard on parade (from left) Leonard Mendel, George Huemmrich, Paul Gaver, and Bob Richmond.

As the song declares, the Stars and Stripes are “forever.” Maris Grove’s veterans club makes sure they are on display in a big way three times a year at the Delaware County, Pa., Erickson Living community. 

On Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, club members create a colorful trail of 100 flags from the entrance gate to the Brinton Clubhouse. It’s a fitting tribute to the men and women who have served our country, and in many cases, made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms.

According to club president Ed Sobieray, “Everyone anticipates viewing the flags waving in the wind at the gate entrance. The flags reflect pride and patriotism and offer a special welcome to anyone arriving at Maris Grove.” 

Installation is fairly swift, thanks to the efforts of club volunteers and grounds supervisor Evan Kikut and his crew. The flags remain in place for one week during each holiday to honor the veterans who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as those currently serving. 

In addition to planting the flags, the club hosts a poignant service in the chapel on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The color guard and flag bearers start the procession, followed by a stirring performance of patriotic songs by the fellowship choir. 

“All 350 seats in the chapel are filled,” says Ed, “Everyone participates, reciting the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ and singing patriotic songs. It’s a wonderful celebration.”

The idea for planting the flags originated with Executive Director Maureen Heckler. She saw the event at another Erickson Living community and thought the veterans club would like to replicate it at Maris Grove. 

“The minute she suggested it, we had an overwhelmingly positive response from our members,” says Ed. “This is our third year, and it is by far our favorite event.”

A large, enthusiastic club

The veterans club is one of the largest at Maris Grove with 155 members, 12 of whom are WWII vets. Nick Jekogian, who served under General George S. Patton in France, is the club’s centurion, an honorary title bestowed by the other members to recognize his service. 

The club meets on the third Monday of every month to socialize and enjoy an educational activity. This could include watching a military-themed film or hearing from a guest speaker. 

“Regardless of when you served, you have that unshakable bond with your fellow veterans,” says Ed. “It’s why the club is so popular and the meetings so well attended.”

Yearly trips to important sites

The club members maintain wide-ranging interests in military history, and the area around Maris Grove is filled with opportunities to explore firsthand. 

Last year, they traveled to Carlisle, Pa., home of the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, whose mission is to “make available contemporary and historical materials related to strategic leadership, the global application of land power, and U.S. Army Heritage to inform research, educate an international audience, and honor soldiers, past and present.”

This year, they toured General George Washington’s encampments at Valley Forge and spent time at the Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation, which exists to “educate about American rights and responsibilities, honor acts of civic virtue, and challenge all to reject apathy and get involved.” 

“These were spectacular trips,” says Ed, “and we look forward to many more.”

As busy as the veterans club is, they will always make time to install the flags to honor their comrades. “We are proud of our contributions to preserving America’s values and freedoms,” says Ed. “As long as we have members, we will plant 100 flags three times a year.”