Flag display at St. Charles park honors missing Vietnam War soldiers
St. Charles Veterans Center member Stephen Von Lawne was happy to hear motorists beep their horns as they drove past the field of flags in Langum Park fluttering in the wind.
On Thursday, Von Lawne was helping place more than 1,500 flags in the ground to honor those Vietnam War soldiers still unaccounted for. Their name tags were placed next to the flags.
He hopes the field of flags will serve as a reminder that these soldiers remain missing. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 1,584 Americans, including 65 individuals from Illinois, remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.
"We're still out there, and we're looking really hard trying to locate them and get them back with their families," Von Lawne said.
The St. Charles Veterans Center is home to four local veteran posts, including American Legion Post 342, VFW Post 5036, AMVETS Post 503 and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 693. A two-day endeavor to put up the flag display quickly gained the support of the community.
"We had neighbors coming out of their houses and helping pound stakes into the ground and people pulling their cars over and getting out to help," he said.
Fellow St. Charles Veterans Center member Robert Phillips is glad to give back to his community. Phillips, an Air Force mechanic, was a member of Operation Desert Storm and other military operations.
"That's why we're part of a veterans organization," he said. "A lot of us just want to do something else for our communities."
The flags were provided by True Patriots Care, an Elgin-based nonprofit group dedicated to supporting those who have served their communities as first responders and as members of the armed services.
"They're all missing in action, and there's 1,584 that are now missing in action," said Lonnie Ritchason, a volunteer with the group and a U.S. Army veteran. "And it's in Vietnam, Laos and China. That's where they're looking. We're going to assume for a second that there's nobody really a prisoner of war anymore. They probably died as a prisoner of war. That's the assumption, anyway."
The flags will stay up until Wednesday. The display is part of the St. Charles Veterans Center's week of activities to celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.