PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Six years ago, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Veteran Employee Readiness Group (VET-ERG) began their partnership with Sturtevant Funeral Home, donating old or worn U.S. Flags from the workforce and community. Hundreds of flags have been delivered to Sturtevant as part of their Retire Your Flag Program, where the flags are draped over fallen veterans at the time of cremation to honor their service and commitment to our nation. This year — the team collected 137 U.S. flags, which were presented to Sturtevant during a ceremony held June 13.
“One of our former VET-ERG Presidents, Mr. Rick Nelson, started and led this program until his retirement in 2019,” said VET-ERG Information and Awareness Officer Nicholas Boyle. “Since then, I have done my best to continue to lead this endeavor and reach out to NNSY coworkers and the public through email and social media, and have always received a heartwarming response from the community for providing this service of properly retiring worn US Flags, and paying respect to our veterans. In keeping this event ongoing, we are able to strengthen our ties with the community.”
The VET-ERG began this endeavor and coordinates its annual delivery to coincide with Flag Day, a time-honored holiday first established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson to celebrate the anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes — the U.S. Flag. Throughout the year, the VET-ERG invites fellow shipyarders and the community to donate any unserviceable or worn flags to the cause.
“It is important that the VET-ERG try to coordinate the collection and presentation of flags to coincide with Flag Day as best as possible, to pay respect to Old Glory, a faithful comrade who has accompanied each of us, and every service member before us, to battlefields and stations in virtually every corner of the globe for more than two centuries,” said Boyle. “Old Glory has guided and comforted countless numbers of our comrades in arms through the best and the worst of times.”
“The Flag of the United States of America serves as a living piece of history and waves throughout our communities. The involvement and support of our community with this endeavor has been amazing and a critical piece to this initiative,” said VET-ERG President Josh Wannemacher. “I believe the significance of Flag Day varies with each VET-ERG member. However, we all share the common bond that when we began our federal service by taking an oath under the American Flag as well as supporting our Army Veterans in celebration of the U.S. Army’s birthday.”
The team invited NNSY Shipyard Commander, Capt. Dianna Wolfson to help celebrate this momentous achievement as they turned over the flags to Robie Gardner who represented Sturtevant Funeral Home. Among those donated is one of the last American flags to be flown at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, donated by NAVSEA 04X Laboratory Quality and Accreditation Office (Code 1563) Chemist and Deputy Director Dr. William Edward Corl. Dr. Corl was provided the flag in 2004 while serving as part of the transition team responsible for ensuring the closure was in accordance with Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) regulations and has flown it as his home ever since.“During its time, this was one of the flags that flew high above the installation and was able to continue its service at my home,” said Dr. Corl. “I feel this initiative is a fitting way to honor this flag history and our fallen veterans — I’m honored to provide this to the Retire Your Flag Program.”
“It’s a privilege to partner with Norfolk Naval Shipyard once again this year,” said Gardner. “We’re so grateful by the support for our Retire Your Flag Program from the VET-ERG, the shipyard, and the community and thank all of you for helping to honor our fallen.”
The NNSY VET-ERG supports members of the NNSY workforce who are military veterans of all branches of service and other supporters of our nation’s veterans through a system of comprehensive activities and outreach programs. “The VET-ERG provides the opportunity for employees with a shared interest to interact with each other and to inform our members of the available resources provided to our veteran and military communities. We achieve this by providing a variety of guest speakers and information at our monthly meetings which also includes the strategic planning for the 11 annual events our group hosts or supports,” said Wannemacher. “Our leading initiative focuses on disseminating veteran related resources and information throughout the shipyard with an added emphasis on our waterfront members. Through an increase in communication the hope is that our group continues to grow not only in membership but with an increase of involvement at the NNSY and community events.”
The team meets the second Thursday of every month at 8 a.m. in Bldg. M-32 First Floor Conference Room and is welcoming any who wish to show their support. For more information, email the VET-ERG Officer Group at NNSY_VET-ERG@flankspeed.onmicrosoft.us.
Learn more about the Retire Your Flag program at https://www.sturtevantfuneralhome.com/retire-your-flag/retire-your-flag. To learn more about Flag Day, visit https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/museums/nmusn/education/additional-activities/flag-day.html/.