“A flag is an honored symbol of a nation’s unity, it’s hopes, achievements, glory and high resolve.”

— Flag Retirement Ceremony Introduction

 

I have always been in awe of the stories about my grandfather and his heroic efforts during the war. 

He enlisted in the army in the summer of 1948 and made his way overseas in 1950. After engaging in a series of battles, my grandfather fought a particular battle in Korea that earned him the Silver Star for his “gallantry in action against an armed enemy.” 

Last month, at Pine Grove Cemetery in New Bedford, I attended a ceremony that was more intricate and moving than I originally expected it to be. The ceremony was to “retire” a number of  American flags to honor those who have served our country. This occasion was especially touching because the flag that had been flown to honor my late grandfather, Master Sergeant Roland Dupont, was being retired.

My cousin and Scout Master for Troop 24, Paul Dupont, has played a large role in the ceremony for the past 15 years but this year was especially important to our family. Young members from Troop 24 Boy Scouts and cub pack along with Troop 3 were proud to present the ceremony.

My grandfather hardly ever spoke about the war but always had a strong work ethic. The father of seven children, he worked as a slasher tender in the textile mills and at a gas station on the weekend.

He would insist on cooking dinner on Sundays to give my grandmother a rest and would add a fun twist to every meal, like adding green food coloring to the mashed potatoes.

While at work in the mills, My grandfather fell ill after suffering a brain aneurism. My grandmother remained his caretaker for many years until he passed away in June of 2008 at the age of 79.

An article published by the Standard Times last December about my grandfather stated that in 1950, “his battalion was ordered to attack and neutralize enemy roadblocks, which had been established on the main supply route. Sgt. Dupont was a squad leader of the battalion ammunition and upon contact with the enemy he immediately deployed his squad to a defense line better suited to repel the assaults of the numerically superior enemy.

“Although the area was covered by intense hostile mortar and automatic weapons fire, he continually moved among his men, exhorting them to stand fast and directing their fire. He ordered his men to move about, to draw the enemy’s fire away from the units which were then moving through the roadblock in motorized columns. As a result of his heroic and inspiring leadership his unit accomplished its mission.”

Because of his courage, my grandfather was awarded the Silver Star along with the Korean Service Medal,  the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the United Nations Service Ribbon. He was 22 years old.

My grandfather returned home and was immediately praised for his heroic actions. He was featured in the local paper and his newborn nephew was named after him.

Last December, a flag was flown in my grandfather’s honor upon the Old Glory Tower in the North End.  It was the 529th flag flown to honor a war veteran. The tradition of flying flags at the Old Glory Tower has been in practice for the last 45 years. It is a wonderful way to give recognition and pay tribute to those who have served. 

The recent Flag Retirement Ceremony gave my grandfather and his flag the opportunity to be honored one last time now that the flag had been taken down from the Old Glory Tower.

Retiring of a worn American flag is done so in a “dignified manner.” The blue field adorned with 50 stars is cut from the red and white strips and each stripe is then individually cut. The red stripes signify the blood of human sacrifice and valor. The white represents purity and the blue field is for justice and loyalty.

The stars were separated to honor soldiers from each and every state in the country that also served with my grandfather. Troop members officiated the ceremony as each article from the flag was individually placed in a fire and a salute was ushered each time.

My grandfather’s daughters, sons, nieces, nephews and grandchildren were able to partake in placing pieces in the fire. It was a reminder that each portion of the flag  is equally important.

Our nation’s red, white and blue flag represents the fundamentals our country was built on and one could not exist without the other. My family could not help but feel an overwhelming amount of patriotism and gratitude.

Troop member Myles Forgue read a speech recounting my grandfather’s time in the service and I could not help but think how my grandfather would not have wished for special recognition for his effort.

Humility is what makes a hero, and servicemen fought not for the glory, but for the good of mankind.

Being able to honor them, even if with just a salute to the flag and a moment of silence, seems the least we can do to validate the sacrifices that have been made. I thank the service men and women and what they have done for this country.

My grandfather’s flag being retired completed the full circle of his legacy, and my family and I could not be more proud.

As my Mom said, “I’m sure he is smiling from Heaven.”