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DAV places flags in Jamestown on holidays as 'patriotic duty'

The Disabled American Veterans chapter in Jamestown places them on certain holidays.

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Jim Speidel, left, places a flag at a business on First Avenue in downtown Jamestown early Monday, July 4, as Rod Olin looks on. The two are members of the Disabled American Veterans in Jamestown, which places flags at businesses on certain patriotic holidays each year.
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – On a patriotic holiday like the Fourth of July, it’s not unusual to see American flags flying downtown. And it's the organized effort of a small group that makes it happen.

For about 40 years, U.S. flags have been placed on certain holidays through the work of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 31 and generous businesses that donate funds to support the program.

On Monday, DAV members Rod Olin, Jim Speidel, Mark McMahon and Amanda Brown posted the flags in front of some businesses in Jamestown.

Olin, past commander and current adjutant and treasurer of the DAV Chapter 31, has overseen the flag display program since 2006.

“We feel it’s our duty,” Olin said. “Our patriotic duty to do it, to display the flag and promote patriotism. … People like to see them. It looks really nice.”

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Participating businesses pay $25 per year to have a U.S. flag placed outside their business. The DAV chapter provides the service on Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Patriot Day (Sept. 11), weather permitting.

Currently, on those holidays, 83 flags are placed outside of businesses and 18 are placed at Jamestown Speedway, Olin said. The work to set up the 3-by-5-foot standard U.S. flags begins around 6 a.m. on the individual holiday. The flags are taken down later that afternoon, Olin said. Weather can be a factor in their schedule, he said.

The flags, which are kept in leather cases to protect them, and their attached flagpoles are stored ready to go for the next holiday display, Olin said. Four DAV members work each holiday to place the flags, installing the poles in drilled holes on sidewalks in front of the businesses. There are about eight to 10 DAV members who rotate working on those holidays to place and collect the flags, Olin said.

“It’s all volunteers and we donate our time and our gas, and we just like to do it,” Olin said. “Feel it’s our patriotic duty to get them up.”

Most of the flags – 53 – are placed downtown, Olin said. They are at some businesses on 10th Street and can be found as far east as S&R Truck Plaza. They can also be found going up Mill Hill to the edge of Jamestown on U.S. Highway 281/52.

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Mark McMahon and Amanda Brown place an American flag outside of Dakota Central early Monday, July 4.
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Olin said businesses have been generous in their support of the program, even contributing more than $1,000 during the coronavirus pandemic when the flag display program was suspended.

“I was just so impressed with that, it really tugged at your heart,” he said.

He said they had sent letters to the businesses to tell them the program was suspended due to health concerns for the volunteers, so when they sent money anyway, he called them to remind them.

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“‘We know that, we just want to keep supporting the veterans,’” Olin said they said.

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Jim Speidel places an American flag in front of a business on First Avenue on Monday, July 4.
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Some businesses donate more than the $25 annual cost, Olin said. Many pay more simply to support veterans.

“There are some very generous people,” he said.

Gary Docktor, owner of Gun & Reel Sports Inc., has participated in the program for many years.

“I just think it’s a good thing, a good program,” he said.

Paul Witthauer, owner of Witthauer Financial Group, said he supports the program for two reasons.

“One is I was brought up to respect the flag, number one,” he said. “Number two, my father was a World War II veteran, so he always felt that was very important (respecting and promoting the flag) and passed that along to our family.”

Witthauer said it was also important to support veterans.

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All funds not spent on flags are donated to veteran-related causes, Olin said, such as the North Dakota Veterans Home in Lisbon and a transportation fund for veterans in the state.

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The policy faces another hurdle as the administration contests a separate Nov. 10 ruling by a federal judge in Texas deeming the program unlawful.

“It all goes toward veterans projects,” he said.

Olin said the DAV Chapter 31 has about 230 members, including many who live out of state. He said 15 to 20 members are actively participating in the group, which is not limited to veterans with a disability. Membership is open to all honorably discharged veterans, he said.

Olin would like to see more downtown businesses participate in the flag display program. Each year, they send out letters to businesses seeking their participation. Anyone wanting to sponsor a flag can contact Olin at (701) 659-0308.

Kathy Steiner has been the editor of The Jamestown Sun since 1995. She graduated from Valley City State College with a bachelor's degree in English and studied mass communications at North Dakota State University, Fargo. She reports on business, government and community topics in the Jamestown area. Reach her at 701-952-8449 or ksteiner@jamestownsun.com.
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