You can see the memorial flags and markers twice a year in Duluth - on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Or you can see them any day on the wallpaper of Ken Pitts' cell phone and computer.
Pitts is on the administrative staff for the city of Duluth's public works department, and one of his jobs is coordinating the memorial flags that are set out this time each year. He hears plenty of thanks from city residents who take advantage of the free service, but he also knows firsthand what it means to be able to honor those who died in war.
If you look in front of the old City Hall, you'll find flags and markers for Pitts' father Gene and uncle Jim, both veterans of World War II. He made sure their flags were placed next to each other, and he keeps a picture of their flags on his cell phone and computer.
"My uncle passed last year and my dad (died) in 1997," Pitts said. "I have them (grouped) together."
Pitts is closing in on 10 years of service for the city. He used to help put the flags up, but now works in the office, taking orders for Duluth residents who want to memorialize a family member. This year he said the city received 23 new requests, pushing the total number of flags and markers to 714.
"People are very grateful," Pitts said of the calls he takes (Duluth residents can order their flags and markers by calling 770-476-2454). "They're very complimentary to (Duluth) for doing this."
Duluth, along with American Legion Post 251, will also recognize veterans this Saturday with a "Remember Those Who Gave All" ceremony at 11 a.m. at City Hall. If you plan on attending the ceremony, you'll pass rows of flags flying in memory of our fallen heroes.
Pitts said the city has been recognizing veterans with the flags and markers since 1993 or '94. He said the late Red Fowler, former director of public works for Duluth, got the idea after visiting a small town in Alabama.
Getting the idea that way doesn't surprise me. I'm from a small town in Illinois that did the same thing, as did many of the small towns in our area. But in metropolitan areas like this, it's a unique, and appreciated, service.
Just ask Ken Pitts. Or better yet, check out the picture on his desktop.
E-mail Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.