By Rosemary Barnes 
San Antonio Express-News 

NEW: Fund drive on to bring more stars, stripes to Fort Sam cemetery 

Web Posted : 12/13/2002 1:24 PM 

The waves of red, white and blue that salute veterans buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery have lost the brilliance so important to the men and women they honor. Time and the elements have taken their toll on the flags and flagpoles that line the cemetery's Avenue of Flags, and a new 50-acre addition doesn't have any of the patriotic fixtures.
A local veteran’s organization is counting on the community to help remedy the problem.

“Most of the flags are worn and frayed, and the flagpoles are old and rusted. We can and should do better for the men and women who gave their lives to protect the lives and freedoms we enjoy,” said Joe Ramos, director of Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery and a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War.

Because the federal government does not fund the cost of flags and flagpoles at national cemeteries, the Veterans of Greater San Antonio Area recently launched a campaign to raise $40,000 for 325 new flagpoles for the cemetery. The campaign will continue through Memorial Day.

“The flags and flagpoles at the cemetery provide patriotic symbolism and demonstrate pride in our country — a fitting environment for our deceased veterans,” said Frank Perales, president of the veteran’s organization.

Perales said he is confident that the San Antonio area will come through with the necessary donations in a timely manner.

“Because of what happened on Sept. 11, our war in Afghanistan and the likelihood we'll go to war with Iraq has created more awareness and sensitivity about what our military men and women do for this country and what our veterans have sacrificed,” he said.

The cost of one flag and flagpole set is $125. Individuals who donate money for a set will receive a certificate of appreciation from the Veterans of Greater San Antonio Area. If a donation is made in honor or memory of a person, it will be included on the certificate.

When the cemetery observes patriotic holidays with memorial services, all flags are flown along the Avenue of the Flags. The cemetery, established in 1924, is the final resting place for 100,000 U.S. veterans and their dependents. Donations should be mailed to VGSAA; P.O. Box 18392; San Antonio, TX 78218-0392.