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Special flags needed at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery

EAST HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Indiantown Gap National Cemetery is one of 139 U.S. National Cemeteries, but it’s one of only two that displays a speci...

EAST HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. - Indiantown Gap National Cemetery is one of 139 U.S. National Cemeteries, but it's one of only two that displays a special type of flag on its Avenue of Flags.

It needs 'Interment Flags' - the ones that are presented to the surviving family member at a military honors funeral and goes over the casket and gets folded up in a triangle. The Avenue of Flags is something the Cemetery has done since the mid 80's, and this year they need about 100 more interment flags.

"Looks like a good crowd this morning," Robert Hauser, chairman of the Avenue of Flags, said.

It's 7:45 a.m. the Saturday after Veterans Day.

"It's not a matter of grumping or grumbling about it," Hauser said. "You just get up and you go do it."

"I imagine we're going to get done pretty quick because it's cold," Hauser said.

He's talking about the 'flags down' even at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. 580 Flags must come down, spanning 244 acres.

Each flag has to be sorted, folded, and put away for the winter. But first all of the poles have to be removed one by one, and unclipped from the flag pole.

"It's not a job that pays money," Hauser said. "But it is a job that fires the passion and you just get a sense of dedication that you have to come out and do this because. It just needs to be done. It's hard to explain."

And it's all hands on deck.

"A marine guy that I knew was a good friend of mine," Larry Wasser, a volunteer, said. "He got me out here about 15 years ago. And I've been doing it ever since."

He makes it look easy. The tricky part is making sure no flag touches the ground. Each one is then loaded up and folded.

"My arms are tired," Tina Baker, a volunteer, said. "Again just trying to find the ends of the flag here to do a rough fold but they're coming to me a little jumbled so it's difficult."

"We have sports teams here," State Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R), who serves parts of Dauphin County, said. "We have young adults, old adults, we have boy scouts, we have girl scouts. It's really a great time."

"I feel blessed that my parents taught me, we need to give back in this nation, we need to give back to the people in our community," Joy Graef, another volunteer, said.

Eventually all of the flags end up at the flag shed. Each one is inspected and sorted into one of three piles:

"Serviceable" - which are folded with the stars out and stowed away until the spring.
"Unserviceable" - which are burned and the ashes are buried in the cemetery.
"Needs to be repaired"- which are sewn and patched up by volunteers.

A new section of the cemetery is being added this year. It will become the home of a hundred new flags come May, so long as they get them. And if the volunteers are any indication, they'll show up year after year.

If you'd like to donate an interment flag, you can drop it off at the administration building. If you don't have a flag to donate, financial contributions are always appreciated to pay for the flag poles and clips. For additional information, call (717) 865-5254.