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Charlottesville veteran shares Memorial Day moment with young kids, raising the ‘Stars and Stripes’

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 10:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On many days, veteran Jim Carpenter makes sure he’s up early before sunrise to lower the flags to half staff at the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial.

On Memorial Day 2021, under the high-flying, yet still half-staff, ‘Stars and Stripes’, people came to pay their respects. Families showed up to read and learn about the 28 Charlottesville-area veterans who lost their lives in Vietnam.

It’s was exactly the type of moments that Carpenter hoped would happen when he helped raise the money for the markers.

“There are people who just drive by this place and see the flags and say ‘well that’s a nice memorial,’” said Carpenter, who serves on the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial Foundation Board of Directors. “I wish they could take the time to drive up here and read about the dash between the day these young men were born and the day they died.”

Carpenter is himself a veteran and was friends with several of the memorialized war heroes, so he makes sure that each flag is where it needs to be, whenever the time calls.

“I’ve been up here when it’s snowing, I’ve been up here when it’s raining, during a thunderstorm a couple of weeks ago, and I’m thinking ‘dear Lord, this is not the place I want to go, no lightning please, keep it north of us.’ It sure did,” he said with a laugh.

Carpenter got lucky that this Memorial Day was all blue skies and sunshine. He also got lucky in recruiting an extra couple sets of hands.

10-year-old Hattie Heyer and her seven-year-old brother Everett came to pay their respects with their parents. They left with a Memorial Day memory -- they raised the flags with Carpenter, and then saluted with him.

“A lot of these kids were my friends from high school,” Carpenter told the kids.

These are the moments Carpenter says keeps the legacy of his friends alive, long past their deaths.

“That’s what this place means,” he said. “It’s a place for heroes to be honored. It’s a place for us to remember those heroes. And let them not be forgotten.”

Hattie and Everett got to help with the POW and Virginia flags. Their parents even got to help with the Army, Navy, and Marines flag.

But Carpenter said the Star-Spangled Banner was one he had to save for himself.

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