Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Va Flaggers: Raising the RVA I-95 Battle Flag

In the days leading up to the September 28th RVA I-95 Confederate Battle Flag raising in Chester, VA, the media filed reports filled with fears and speculation of "trouble" that was sure to accompany the planned Memorial and Dedication service.  Planning for a crowd of approx. 150, we were warned that folks would likely stay away in fear. Chesterfield County police officers visited with us in the days leading up to the service, to go over parking and traffic control plans, and to let us know that they would be on call should there be any disturbances.

As the Va Flaggers arrived to prepare for the event on Saturday morning, it soon became obvious that not only was the weather going to be perfect, but that all of those fears were completely unfounded.  Parking was plentiful, traffic was trouble free, and over 300 Southern Heritage Supporters made their way to the flag site, including visitors from as far away as North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, as well as cities and towns from across the Commonwealth.  Throughout the entire course of the event, there was not one single protestor, dissenter, or even a disparaging remark from passers-by.

As the crowd gathered, excitement began to build.  What a privilege to meet so many new friends and fellowship with old ones at the base of the flag pole!

Promptly at 10:00 a.m., the ceremony began with an invocation and the colors were presented by the Color Guard of the Capt. Wm. Latane Camp, #1690, SCV.  Salutes to the Confederate and Virginia flags, and the singing of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" drowned out the din of passing cars and set the tone for the ceremony.  Va Flagger Luke M. shared a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

An informative talk about the Confederate history of the area was shared, and poetry read to honor the Confederates who fought and died near the location.

When the time came for me to speak, I was overwhelmed as I looked around at those who had assembled for the service.  On the ridge behind me, I saw a large group of men of the Mechanized Cavalry, SCV, and I could not help but smiling, realizing that just a few hours before, we actually had concerns about safety and security.  Who needs security when the Mechanized Cavalry has your back?

I spoke for a few minutes and standing there, in that spot that day, I marveled at the fact that there was none of the usual nervousness…no jitters…no stress or concern.  About halfway through my prepared notes, a breeze lifted and took my notes with it.  I don’t really know how to explain it, but there was a peace that washed over me and I found myself straying from my prepared notes a bit, and speaking from my heart, full of emotion from the weeks leading up to that point, the excitement of the moment, and the realization that there were more gathered in that place than just those standing at the site.  Thanks to Ira Meredith, there is a an excerpt here..

Immediately afterwards, and accompanied by the "Bonnie Blue Flag" on bagpipe, Grayson Jennings led a group of Va Flaggers in raising the 15×15 ANV Battle Flag.  Watching it was an experience many of us will not soon forget.  As the flag rose, the air was still and the crowd quiet in anticipation.  The flag reached the top of the pole, and as if on cue, or some would say, spurred by the breath of the Old Soldiers watching us, and amidst shouts of joy, a breeze suddenly lifted the flag and stretched her out for all to see and admire.

The Latane Color Guard offered a rifle salute, a final benediction was invoked, and the crowd was dismissed with a rousing rendition of "Dixie".

The extensive media coverage leading up to the event, while often negative, had quite the opposite intended effect, as we have received support and donations from across the country and around the globe.  The press immediately following the event has been surprisingly positive.  Those reporters who attended the ceremony provided many quotes from our program in their reports, and interviews following the service by guests and Flaggers helped to better show the true meaning of the Battle Flag memorial as it was publicly dedicated to the honor and memory of the Confederate Soldier.

There have been comments and concerns regarding the visibility of the flag from I-95.  Please be assured that while the foliage served us well as concealment during the site work and pole setting, plans are underway to clear additional trees and branches to improve visibility… and fencing, lighting, and security cameras will be installed soon.  For now, it is enough for us to know that the flag is flying high, and is attracting visitors from all across the country to stop and admire her.  Confederate-friendly neighbors who are helping to keep an eye on the site have reported that there is a constant stream of cars stopping by, with folks walking across the overpass for the best view and photo opportunities. We are content in the fact that even if the current visibility from I-95 is not ideal, we know the flag is there…hundreds of thousands of people know its there…and most importantly, the SOLDIERS know it is there, and know that they are not forgotten!

More photos here, from Judy Smith Photography…

A special thanks to each and every person who made the day possible, through your generous support and/or contributions, and those who took the time to come out and attend the ceremony.  We are truly blessed by all who have joined us in this endeavor.

Finally, we encourage you to watch the horizon…in Virginia…and elsewhere, as the I-95 Battle Flag Projects are…to be continued…

Susan Hathaway
Va Flaggers

Contributions to the I-95 Battle Flag projects may be mailed to:
Va Flaggers
P.O. Box 547
Sandston VA 23150
Payable to Va Flaggers

or through PayPal: