Small town, big pride

In the southeastern area of the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia sits the small town of Cameron, population approximately 900. Since 2017, the town has honored hundreds of veterans with a “Field of Flags” for Memorial Day.

Tucker Conely, a veteran and member of the Cameron American Legion Post 18, remembers when Cameron had a veteran’s memorial park located in the most central area of downtown. However, due to town construction in the late 1970s, the cannon and memorial monument were moved to a hillside location, hidden from passersby. And the park was no more.

Conely said, “When the cannon and memorial monument were moved from the downtown area, the Memorial Day ceremonies just weren’t the same. I promised myself I’d change that one day.”

Conely designed the layout for a new centrally-located park and in 2015 began construction on property adjacent to the B&O freight depot and Route 250, the main artery through town. The major task of relocating the World War I cannon and memorial monument, as well as a deck being added for ceremonies, made way for the park’s dedication in 2016. On May 28, 2016, the park was dedicated as “The Cameron American Legion Post #18 Veterans’ Memorial Park.”

With the completion of the park, the question of funding for upkeep became a priority. After viewing an article in The American Legion Magazine where a community in Indiana had created a “Field of Flags," Jim Rogers, veteran and member of the Cameron Post 18, discussed the idea with Conely. They decided they could create a similar way to honor veterans and fund the park at the same time.

Rogers put plans into place by creating flags with name plates for each veteran being honored. Sponsors paid $5 per flag to honor their loved ones. With the help of his wife and many volunteers, flags honoring veterans from the Revolutionary War to active duty are placed in precisely straight rows through the park each year for viewing by members of the community and surrounding area.

In 2017, the town honored veterans with 367 flags. Rogers said that Legion members thought if they got 100 flags they would be pleased. As of May 2020, the project has grown to 899 flags with an enormous interest in more flags for 2021. Citizens from throughout the area, as well as elementary students, enjoy coming to the park over a two-week period surrounding Memorial Day to walk through the flags to find their honored family members.

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