BARBOURSVILLE – For the past 10 years, local Vietnam veteran Tom Plumley has painted a large American flag on his yard to celebrate Memorial Day and honor those who served.
The process itself takes between two and three days and is extremely thorough. Using a large, pre-measured rope, Plumley shapes the outline of the flag and goes to work from there.
He doesn’t paint just any American flag at random; rather, Plumley created a garrison flag, a type of flag 20 feet high by 38 feet long specifically used at military bases and outposts on Sundays and holidays. When rendered in red, white and blue paint on his lawn, the design is massive compared to a person.
Each of the 13 stripes on the painted flag is one foot high. Plumley uses marker paint, a water-based paint used primarily by construction workers, to ensure that the annual exposure does not harm the local environment as it dries.
Plumley said what inspires him to do this every year is the belief that all soldiers should have a flag.
“Whether he’s only been two years old or seen fighting or no fighting, I think every serviceman deserves at least one flag at his grave,” Plumley said.
Having attained the rank of Sergeant First Class by the time he retired, Plumley spent most of his life in the service of this country. Now 69, Plumley spent 20 years in the US Army and an additional 22 years with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Huntington.
Plumley was deployed to places such as Vietnam, Germany, Grenada, and Korea, and assisted with relief efforts in Africa in 1985. He turned 19 while fighting in Vietnam.
“I was dispatched when I was 18,” Plumley said. “You hear people say, ‘Yeah, Vietnam was my senior trip. Well, for me it really was.
Although it has been a long road, Plumley has no regrets for his service.
“For me, I have had an exceptional career,” Plumley said. “I’ve been to places and done things that most people don’t even dream of. Some of the things I did, I felt really helped. I felt it was my duty, and that’s what I did.
Plumley said he regularly sees flags placed at the graves of his loved ones, including a brother who died during the Korean War and a personal friend. If he had one wish, it would be for everyone to bring an extra flag or two over Memorial Day weekend.
“On a vacation where you go to visit your deceased loved ones, I would like people to take a few extra flags with them,” Plumley said. “If everyone could bring a few more flags and put a flag on the grave of every veteran in every cemetery, wouldn’t that be amazing?