Surrounded by a sawed-down tree to create a “natural barrier,” an American flagpole stands tall at the edge of 707 Wheatley Drive in Westminster.
An idea that started some five years ago finally came to fruition on Saturday, July 28.
Echoes of John Philip Sousa marches rang over the speakers as patriotic jugglers and a stilt walker greeted those in attendance for the World War II Veterans Flagpole Dedication.
Most important of all — there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight. It was a hot and humid Maryland summer day, but the dry weather was fantastic news for Charles and Charlotte Wheatley.
Following three previous rainouts, they were finally given the chance to honor Technical Sgt. Calvin E. Plitt and his WWII comrades.
Plitt, who recently turned 92 years old, joined the Army at 17 and served in the 3rd U.S. Army under Gen. George S. Patton. Plitt’s military career took him overseas to France, Germany and Czechoslovakia during the war.
At just 18, Plitt was awarded the prestigious Bronze Star Medal. It is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving the participation of aerial flight.
Plitt agreed to participate in the flagpole dedication but under one condition: That not only he, but all veterans of WWII be honored.
So the Wheatleys did just that and invited all veterans to witness the special celebration.
“I tell everybody, ‘These are my heroes,’ ” Charles Wheatley said. “Not just the veterans, but all the people that work with them.”
From the pledge to the flag, the introduction of veteran honorees and the reciting of “The American’s Creed” by William Tyler Page, the hour-long ceremony rang a patriotic tone.
Plitt was presented with a plaque, and he kept his remarks brief when helped to the microphone, offering four simple words.
“Everybody is a hero,” he said.
The humble phrase resonated with those in attendance.
Charles Wheatley said the flagpole dedication was the first of many. It will act as an entranceway to what he wants to call the “Highway of Heroes.” The family plans to honor more veterans from the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and so on.
“We’re going to start with WWII and go all the way up with little markers,” he said. “We hope that this will be something that we can do on a regular basis.”
Veterans of various ages took turns sharing their experiences, each providing insight into their own unique experiences as well as insightful messages on their military journeys.
The ceremony promptly ended with the playing of the national anthem. And even those who could barely stand made sure they were up to salute the flying flag.
By now, the remaining WWII veterans are in their 90s and Wheatley acknowledged that these ceremonies are important to remember what they’ve sacrificed.
“We just think it’s a great thing for everybody to recognize that these guys [don’t have] many more years here,” he said.