Bob Englehardt, a member of the Derry Veterans of Foreign Wars Men’s Auxiliary, understands the need to properly dispose of worn American flags. “Joanie Cornetta, the director of the Transfer Station, recently gave me three trash bags full of them,” he said. “And I’ve got one in the back of my car now.”
The Pinkerton Academy Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and the VFW thought they’d solved the problem of old flags last fall, when the cadets installed a rehabilitated U.S. Mail container at the transfer station for flag disposal. But the box was stolen from the transfer station one week after it was installed. Now it’s back, and the cadets, their teachers and the veterans are hoping that Derry residents may safely and respectfully dispose of Old Glory once again.
Lt. Col. Howie Steadman, director of Junior ROTC at Pinkerton; instructor Chuck Porter; and recently-graduated cadet Morgen Hooley unloaded the bin Wednesday, June 18. It had to be repainted, Hooley said, but is the same box a VFW member snagged for them from a Massachusetts post office.
And it’s just as heavy. The three men strained to remove the box from the back of a pickup truck. “Piece of cake,” Steadman said jokingly, while noting that the box weighs 200 to 300 pounds.
It was no laughing matter last fall, when the red-and-silver box was stolen. It was a one-person job, and the three men, who watched the security video, still can’t believe that one person loaded the box by himself.
Hooley remembers being “annoyed and disappointed” at the theft. It had taken eight cadets two weeks to refurbish the box the first time, he said, noting, “We put so much work into it.”
And the box had already proved its usefulness, they said. They had received a few flags that first week, and, Steadman said, “There was one inside when it was stolen.”
The Derry Police kept the box until April or May, Hooley said, and when they got it back it was “all beaten up.”
The men set the box up directly across from the weigh station, though they noted that Cornetta may move it elsewhere. They like the first spot because it increases visibility and decreases the possibility of further theft, they said.
Englehardt stopped by that afternoon to watch the setting up. “I thought it was a great idea,” he said of the original effort to install the box. “People come to us with questions all the time.”