Volunteers remove the American flag pole topper at the Panola County Veterans Memorial in order to repair it.

The round ball on top of the American flag pole at the Veterans Memorial needed to be repaired.

Apparently, over time the hardware became lose, allowing the ball to spin freely around the bolt making the hole larger until finally it slipped over the nut and rested on top of the pole instead of staying mounted above it. Repairing this was no easy task, as the top of the flag pole is pretty high up!

Thankfully, we live in a community where people are very supportive of our veterans and are industrious and resourceful. People like Greg Stapleton who is a veteran and member of Still Water Cowboy Church’s Veteran support group. Stapleton and his partner were able to use a crane and man basket from their employer at Classic Oilfield Services to go up in the air, take the ball off, and bring it down.

My friend Corey Robinson, who owns Transformers, Now, did a great job of repairing the ball and its hardware at his shop. After discussing the traditional contents of an American flag pole topper he brought it back to me ready to go back up.

Urban legend has it that an American flag pole topper contains three items — a razor blade, a match and a bullet. In the event a military unit is decimated, the last soldier would use the razor blade to cut the stripes from the American flag, thereby rendering it no longer the American flag, the match to ceremoniously retire the flag, and the bullet to avoid being captured.

The flag pole topper was now repaired, fully loaded and ready to go back up. A longtime friend and partner in crime Eric Pellum, who owns American Elevator Technologies, volunteered his services. He brought his man lift machine, and after some tricky maneuvering made it to the top of the pole and re-installed the top of our American flag pole. While up there with a bird’s eye view of the flags at the memorial, he noticed the flags were pretty faded and starting to tatter. When I told him how much a new set of flags cost, he kindly wrote the check to replace all of them — the American, Texas, Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and POW/MIA flags.

Lately, with so much in the news about military and historical monuments and memorials being destroyed, we can be proud that our people step up to help restore and maintain our own veterans memorial.

Currently there are over 1,050 names of local veterans who have served our military in years past. The cost of purchasing these and having them engraved was getting rather expensive. Steve Mihlhauser with Car-Tex Trailer purchased and donated 360 blank name plates for us to use when someone would like to honor a veteran by adding their name to the memorial. Mr. Jim Kimberly and Mrs. Jolene Davis, along with the CISD metal shop students, are working diligently to learn how to engrave these for us. They’ve also been working to build a metal wind shield of sorts to help block the wind for our perpetual flame memorial. (This flame has proven itself to be an ongoing challenge.) What a great thing to give our students an opportunity to honor our veterans while they learn new skills in the classroom.

As the Veterans Service Officer for Panola County, I am very honored to be taking care of our veterans memorial. I would like to encourage our veterans or family members to honor their veterans by adding them to our memorial. We ask for a $20 donation as there are expenses associated with maintaining the memorial. You may come to my office in the courthouse at room 108, come by the Old Jail, or call me at (903) 693-0361.

William Morris is the Panola County Veterans Officer.