Painted flags commemorate fallen soldiers

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(Host) Visitors to Brattleboro over the next few weeks may notice rows of small, hand-painted American flags. They flutter knee-high on the lawn of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. There’s a flag for every U.S. service person who has died in the War in Iraq.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) For two Sundays, the Newbrook firehouse in Newfane became a sort of flag factory. Volunteers of all ages worked assembly-line style at the hall’s long bingo tables painting ten-inch rectangles of white cloth donated by a local laundry.

(Woman) “So somebody does the red stripes and somebody does the blue…
(Woman) “How many do you have and how many do you need?”
(Lauri Richardson) “We have 2,801. And we need all together 3,404….”

(Keese) Lauri Richardson of Newfane started this project after seeing a similar exhibit in another state. She’d been looking for a way to acknowledge the lives lost in Iraq, something that would bring people together rather than divide them.

So she started painting flags. She enlisted some school classes and a couple of nursing homes. She spread the word that anyone was welcome to help.

(Sue Paraspolo) ‘We’re not for the war, we’re not against the war. Everybody has their own opinion.”

(Keese) Sue Paraspolo joined the effort to keep busy. Her son Anthony is in Iraq.

(Paraspolo) “Right now it’s giving me something to do because I don’t know where my son is. This way I can remember those who gave their life and hopefully we don’t have to paint too many more. But if they need to be painted, I’m here to do it.”
(Pat) “I think it’s a real tribute.”

(Keese) A woman named Pat is here for the first time. She doesn’t want to use her last name. She says she worries about causing trouble for her son, who is also in Iraq.

(Pat) “He has been over there several times. I think he’s right in the middle. I think any place in Iraq is dangerous and they’re all in harm’s way. I don’t know how you protect yourself against suicide bombers and bombs that are buried. It’s horrific.”

(Keese) Pat says she worries about Iraqis caught in the crossfire as well. She says her son seems to have a calling for the military. She tries to accept it.

(Pat) “And I’m not interested in getting into political conversations to defend my point of view or to defend my son’s point of view. I mean, as you probably know Sue, it’s very lonely. I mean, you’re the only one who carries in your head this child. It’s a very helpless feeling.”

(Keese) Hanging the flags on the museum lawn, Richardson says everyone’s worked so hard it’s almost a surprise when it comes together.

(Richardson) “And then you step back and take a break and whoa! It’s so colorful and visible from a lot of different directions.”

(Keese) Some of the flags have four red stripes, some five. And the stars are definitely individualistic. Just like the people who made them and the lives they represent.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Brattleboro.

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