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Stars For Our Troops, a gesture of thanks to veterans

The Times-Leader - 12/28/2016

FARMVILLE-Members of the Maj. Benjamin May Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution are celebrating local veterans and preserving the American flag through the Stars For Our Troops program.

A woman in New York started Stars For Our Troops six years ago. Taking a tattered, faded or torn U.S. flag, Stars For Our Troops volunteers carefully cut out the stars from the flag. Each star is placed in a small plastic bag with a note that reads, "I am part of our American flag that has flown over the U.S.A. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that You are not forgotten."

Since its inception in September 2010, Stars For Our Troops has grown throughout the United States with local organizations taking up the cause to honor their local veterans.

The Maj. Benjamin May chapter joined the cause two years ago.

Treasurer Judy May learned about Stars For Our Troops at a Daughters of the American Revolution fall forum. May returned and shared details with local chapter members, who immediately knew they wanted to participate.

"This is a small, yet touching way to say ?thank you' to a veteran," said May, whose father, husband and brother are all veterans.

The chapter's regent, Gay Davenport, added, "All veterans are connected to the flag."

To retire a flag, the statute suggests the American flag be burned or treated reverently, registrar Sue Butler explained.

Stars For Our Troops fully respects the flag when creating its stars for veterans, she added. Some may feel Stars For Our Troops desecrates the flag, but volunteers strive to treat the flag with respect, Butler said.

"We only cut the blue portion of the flag with the stars. This part is washed to remove pollutants the flag has absorbed. Every scrap is disposed of properly," Butler said.

The Farmville American Legion Post 151 has a flag drop box located outside of its facility. This mailbox, which features a U.S. flag design, was built and designed by Eagle Scout Joey Santopolo several years ago. Those who wish to dispose of a flag are asked to leave it in the box. Local Boy Scouts and Post members then properly dispose of the flags through a flag burning ceremony, according to May.

Maj. Benjamin May chapter members leave their flag scraps in the drop box.

In the past two years, chapter members have collected approximately 100 tattered flags for the project. The stars have been distributed at the chapter's recent Veterans Day and Vietnam War ceremonies.

"Handing a star to a veteran gives you a warm feeling and an opportunity to say, ?thank you,'" May said.

The chapter's chaplain, Nancy Harris, added, "We are doing something worthwhile and we know who will receive the stars."

Stars For Our Troops is not only for veterans either.

"We so often overlook the sacrifice families make. The children, husbands and wives all make adjustments for their loved one to serve - so many support this process," Gay said.

Butler enjoys serving as the chapter's chairwoman of the U.S. flag and veterans committees and overseeing the Stars For Our Troops project.

"I feel everybody needs to promote Americanism and not be complacent. We take too much for granted. We live in a great nation and need to support it," Butler said.

Along with the chapter, the May Museum is a also a "star member" of Stars For Our Troops.

The Maj. Benjamin May chapter also distributes mini flags to active military men and women through its pocket flag program. These flags fit into the a pocket of their fatigues, allowing the solider to always have the flag with them while serving overseas.

"Our soldiers serve with this flag in mind, so to carry it with them while and after they are serving has a lot of meaning," Gay said.

The chapter has distributed pocket flags for the past three years.'To receive a Stars For Our Troops or pocket flag or to make a donation to any of the chapter's veterans' projects, please call Butler at 252-531-4678.

Continuing in the spirit to honor local veterans, the chapter, in the past, has also participated in Wreaths Across America. Five years ago, the chapter distributed approximately 25 Christmas wreaths to local members of the community whose deceased family member served in the military.

The chapter also has a Walk of Honor on the grounds of its DAR Chapter House.

"It is privilege to work with all of our members. The things we do are not just formalized. It touches our hearts and want it to touch others' lives," Gay said.

The Maj. Benjamin May Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is celebrating its 91st year.

The chapter has approximately 60 members. Members must be able to prove they are "a descendant of someone who provided material support during the Revolutionary War in a measurable way," Butler said.

"This is not only soldiers. (The descendant could have) gave hay for the horses. Anyone who supported the cause," she said.

The chapter meets at 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month May through September at the chapter house.