Stars and Stripes fly over park at last

Published 12:06 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

SALISBURY — Friday morning’s breeze was a welcome addition as the American flag was hoisted atop the new flag pole at Bell Tower Green at 10 a.m., saluted by veterans, city officials and residents.

According to Captain Gerard R. Hervieux Commander, the process of getting a flag at the park has taken “almost two years, but the day has finally come.”

The park used to belong to a private group, Bell Tower Green Inc., which was initially hesitant to put the flag in the park for several reasons. There was already a flag outside the Rowan County office building on West Innes, and last year, a flag was installed in front of the library on Fisher Street, meaning two flags were visible from the park. In addition, that organization was concerned that if one request to make a change to the detailed plan of the park was permitted, it would be difficult to turn down future requests.

But veterans throughout the county requested a flag inside the park itself, and argued that a flag is a small enough item that it would not interfere with the design or uses of the park.

As part of the agreement with the city when the city took over the park, the city council formed an advisory committee to review any potential changes then make a recommendation to the council. After hearing from a number of veterans and residents at several public hearings and meetings, the committee recommended that the council install the flag.

The council agreed and ordered a flag pole to match many other materials planned for the park, but there were supply issues that delayed arrival of the pole. The city’s Public Works department originally dug a hole for the pole but when a new one had to be secured, the department had to come back and adjust as they original hole was not the right size.

It was not clear when the flag would go up at first, since Saturday and Monday are Memorial day events, but Mayor Karen Alexander reached out to veterans to ask if they could have an initial flag raising Friday morning so the flag would be flying by Monday. They agreed to have a brief ceremony with prayer that morning, to be followed by a formal flag dedication ceremony scheduled for June 14, Flag Day, at 1 p.m.

“Today was absolutely great,” said Bernie Sahadi, Commander of the Rowan County Veterans Council, which includes about 10,000 veterans throughout the county. “We are pleased to be here and have the flag up, and we look forward to the formal ceremony in a few weeks.” Sahadi organized the presentation Friday morning and will be instrumental in the June 14 event.

Ronnie Smith, a veteran and well-known resident of Rowan County, was incredibly instrumental in getting the flag pole installed at the park, and he was all smiles Friday.

“This is just wonderful, for the veterans but also for the people of Rowan County,” he said.

A number of veterans demonstrated, carrying flags and seeking support from passing motorists and visitors to the park, while the advisory committee and the council reviewed the request.

“We were out here in some of the worst heat last summer,” said U.S. Navy Vietnam-era veteran Fred Moore. “Ninety-five percent of the people coming by were very supportive. It was unfortunate we had some not so supportive, but the truth is, it’s OK, because we are here now, and the flag is up, and I am very proud of that.”