12,000 flags at Va. War Memorial honor veterans from Virginia

12,000 flags at Va. War Memorial honor veterans from Virginia
Each flag honors the 12,000 Virginians who made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars since WWII to present day. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Dozens gathered to celebrate ‘National Flag Day’ at the Virginia War Memorial Saturday morning where 12,000 american flags were on display.

Each flag honors the 12,000 Virginians who made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars since WWII to present day.

Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger along with other distinguished veterans spoke at the event.

“It’s just a proud reminder and symbol of who we are as Americans and what we are all serving whether in our communities or congress or in the military,” said Spanberger.

Color guards retired an American flag above an open fire during the ceremony in honor of their fellow fallen service members with each discarded piece of the flag.

Vietnam veteran and Chesterfield native Jerry Landrum was present at the ceremony, but chose Saturday to celebrate a particularly historic flag in honor of his father.

Jerry’s father, James Dennis Landrum, served as an electrician’s mate on the U.S.S. Grenadier in WWII.

“The submarine was disabled and they were captured by the Japanese and he spent about two and a half years in Japanese prison camps until the end of the war,” said Jerry.

Jerry said his father and other prisoners of war faced unimaginable torture.

“They wanted to make sure they had something that would help them make it through the war,” said Jerry.

Jerry said his father and the other P.O.W.s found the strength to keep going by secretly stitching together a makeshift flag behind enemy lines.

The flag is known as the Omori flag. They created it by stealing Japanese bed sheets and colored pencils.

“My dad drew a grid where the stars and stripes were going to be and then the other P.O.W.s took turns with colored pencils they stole from the red cross packages and drew it in secret,” said Jerry.

Jerry said they did this all at the risk of possible execution. Jerry’s father can be seen holding the Omori flag high in photographs.

“I stand for what they stood for,” said Jerry. “They always had respect for the country. They did their duty and never thought they did anything special."

The ceremony concluded with tapes being played as the final pieces of the retired flag were thrown into the fire.

The display of 12,000 flags will be on display at the Virginia War Memorial until Friday.

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