BARBOURSVILLE — For the past 10 years, local Vietnam veteran Tom Plumley has painted a large American flag on his yard to observe Memorial Day and honor those who served.
The process itself takes between two and three days and is extremely detail oriented. Using a large, premeasured rope, Plumley forms the outline of the flag, and gets to work from there.
He isn’t painting just any random American flag; rather, Plumley creates a garrison flag, a 20-foot-high-by-38-foot-long type of flag specifically used at military bases and outposts on Sundays and flag-flying holidays. When rendered in red, white and blue paint on his lawn, the design is massive compared to a person.
Each of the 13 stripes upon the painted flag is a foot tall. Plumley uses marker paint, which is a water-based paint used primarily by construction workers, to make sure the annual display doesn’t harm the local environment as it dries.
Plumley said what inspires him to do this each year is the belief that all soldiers should have a flag.
“Whether he only did two years or saw combat or no combat, I think every serviceman deserves at least a flag on his grave,” said Plumley.
Having achieved the rank of sergeant first class by the time he retired, Plumley has spent most of his life in service to this country. Now 69, Plumley spent 20 years within the U.S. Army and an additional 22 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntington.
Plumley saw deployment in locations including Vietnam, Germany, Grenada and Korea, and aided in relief efforts in Africa during 1985. He turned 19 years old while he fought in Vietnam.
“I was shipped over while I was 18,” said Plumley. “You hear people talking about, ‘Yeah, Vietnam was my senior trip.’ Well, for me, it really was.”
Though it was a long road, Plumley has no regrets over his service.
“To me, I had an outstanding career,” said Plumley. “I went places and did things that most people don’t even dream about. Some of the things I did, I felt really helped out. I felt it was my duty, and that’s what I did.”
Plumley said he routinely sees the placing of flags over the graves of loved ones, including a brother who died in the Korean War and a personal friend. If he had one wish, it would be that everyone bring an extra flag or two during Memorial Day weekend.
“On holidays where you go to visit your loved ones that have passed, I would like to see people take a few extra flags with them,” said Plumley. “If everyone could just bring a few extra flags and put a flag on every veteran’s grave in every cemetery, wouldn’t that be amazing?”