Derby-Shelton Rotary flying flags to honor those who went ‘above and beyond’

Derby-Shelton Rotary Club members Rosemary Allen, left, Julie Blakeman, center, and Linda Holmes-Hannon prepare for opening of the club's Flags for Heroes project to be displayed at Veteran's Memorial Park beginning Saturday, May 28, 2022.

Derby-Shelton Rotary Club members Rosemary Allen, left, Julie Blakeman, center, and Linda Holmes-Hannon prepare for opening of the club's Flags for Heroes project to be displayed at Veteran's Memorial Park beginning Saturday, May 28, 2022.

Brian Gioiele / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — American flags will be flying at Veterans Memorial Park beginning this weekend — but it will not be just military heroes that they are honoring.

Derby-Shelton Rotary Club members will kick off Memorial Day weekend on Saturday by placing American flags along the fence at the Canal Street park and around the Rotary Pavilion on Saturday as the group launches its Flags for Heroes project, which will run from May 28 to June 14.

“This whole place will be transforming on Saturday,” said Linda Holmes-Hannon of the Derby-Shelton Rotary Club and chair of the Flags for Heroes.

On each flag will be a medallion with the name of the “hero,” from military veteran to doctor, nurse, teacher, and anyone else’s name and profession submitted to the Rotary Club leadership.

“This is a chance to come together as a community to recognize people who have gone above and beyond, whether it is doctors, nurses, teachers,” said Derby-Shelton Rotary Club President Julie Blakeman. “It has been such a rough two years.”

Holmes-Hannon said one Rotarian’s father died recently, and she purchased a medallion honoring the nurse who assisted her father. Holmes-Hannon said the Rotarian chose to recognize the nurse who allowed her to spend time with her father before he died.

“We’ve heard so many stories just like this,” said Blakeman while standing under the Rotary Pavilion, which sits only feet away from the monuments honoring veterans of foreign wars. “Right here, we are honoring ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Blakeman said the club was looking to honor anyone who served.

“Flags for Heroes is an opportunity to honor those individuals who have served our country, our communities, and our families,” Blakeman said. “It is a thoughtful tribute and a breathtaking sight.”

This project has become popular among Rotary clubs, and Holmes-Hannon said she knew this was right for Veterans Memorial Park in Shelton after seeing a similar presentation in Wallingford after the death of her father-in-law, a retired Marine.

“Our next-door neighbor asked us to attend a Flags for Heroes memorial at Wallingford. There were 160 flags, and you could hear flags snapping and blowing in the breeze,” she said. “I knew we had the perfect place for this right here. And after such a horrible tragedy (the death of 17-year-old James McGrath) we need good vibes in Shelton.”

Blakeman said with more than 200 flags on tap for this year, plans are already in place to make this an annual event.

Individuals and organizations throughout our community are invited to sponsor one or more flags to honor their heroes.

Following the event, personalized commemorative tags will be delivered to all sponsors. The Derby-Shelton Rotary Club retains the flags for use at future events.

“What a wonderful way to show our love for those special people in our lives and to join with more than 100 others in such a moving and demonstrative way. I can’t wait to see all the flags proudly waving in the breeze,” said Holmes-Hannon.

All sponsors are invited to join the Derby-Shelton Rotary Club for a “Flags for Heroes” ceremony on the Riverwalk on June 11 at 11 a.m.

“The ceremony is a chance to come together after all the social distancing and being apart,” Blakeman said.

“We will never forget our heroes,” Holmes-Hannon added.

Proceeds from Flags for Heroes will benefit the Derby-Shelton Rotary Club which supports the community through special projects and grants to local organizations.

Donations to the Derby-Shelton Rotary are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Visit www.derby-sheltonrotary.org to download an order form or purchase sponsorships. For more information, contact Chairperson Linda Holmes-Hannon at Linda.Holmes-Hannon@hilton.com or 203-650-2391.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com