A story for Flag Day: Remembering a Guardsman, honoring a nation

jwarren@herald-leader.comJune 13, 2013 

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Beside the Hal Rogers Parkway, near Manchester, an American flag floats above a small memorial to a fallen soldier. Red, white and blue stands out against springtime green.

Janet Stanfill and a few friends have kept the flag flying since her husband, Kentucky National Guard Sgt. Glenn S. Stanfill, died in a traffic crash on the parkway in 2004.

Stanfill, 43, was in a convoy headed for a weekend Guard training session when a loaded coal truck collided with the Humvee he was driving.

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It's a simple memorial: flowers, a handmade wooden cross with Glenn Stanfill's name, Stanfill's Army helmet; and always the flag. When cloth gets tattered or the colors fade, Janet Stanfill — or somebody — puts up a new one.

"I do the flags. But I've also had other people put up new flags, and I don't even know who they are," Janet Stanfill said. "Some of his Guard buddies, or somebody, do different things. I've had people leave notes for me, saying how much they appreciate his service and things like that."

Many Americans will be flying Old Glory on Friday, which is Flag Day. It is not as well known as Independence Day or Memorial Day, but it commemorates an important moment in U.S. history: the resolution by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, establishing an official flag for the new nation and prescribing its basic design.

The flag is the icon of American strength, unity and freedom.

But each American can find his or her own particular meaning in the Red, White and Blue.

For some, it represents the land that has nurtured generations of their families. For others, it symbolizes the nation that they have adopted in search of a better life.

For still others, the simple piece of cloth memorializes sons, daughters, spouses or friends who served under the colors, and in some cases gave their lives in that service.

Historian Adam Goodheart traces Americans' special feeling for their flag to December 1860, when Major Robert Anderson, a Kentuckian, raised an American flag over Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Confederate forces later bombarded the fort, kicking off the Civil War.

Almost overnight, American flags were flying everywhere in Union territory, Goodheart said.

"Until then, the flag was used mostly to mark federal property," he said. "Average citizens didn't fly the flag from their porches or shop windows. In fact, American flags from before the Civil War are incredibly rare — any flag collector will tell you that.

"But once the flag came under attack at Sumter, everything changed. There are accounts from the first weeks of the Civil War, for instance, of New York City just being draped in flags."

Goodheart notes that there was a similar flag explosion immediately after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It continues to this day, he said.

Janet Stanfill said she and a few friends put up the first flag at her husband's crash site shortly after the fatal wreck. The current flag was put up on Memorial Day by her sister, Ella Moore of Bowling Green, she said.

"It's hard to believe that it's been nine years," she said. "Things do get better, but there are still times when it cuts just as deeply as it did the night it happened."

Glenn Stanfill's son, Pvt. Joshua Stanfill, then 18, was riding in the same Humvee. Joshua lived but was critically injured. Janet Stanfill said her husband had gone on the training exercise because he wanted to be with Joshua. It was to be Joshua's first weekend in the National Guard, she said.

Now, Stanfill maintains the memorial, with help from people she doesn't even know.

"Sometimes things just appear and I don't know where they come from," she said. "His buddies still care, and care a lot."


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Show your pride on Flag Day by posting photos of your flag to Facebook.com/kentuckycom

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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