Witt: Marine Corps League ranks thinning, but active

In about 2005, the local detachment of the Marine Corps League, led very capably by Ed Burtner, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, secured three old mail boxes — the kind that can still be found at the exit drive of the local Post Office and behind the courthouse.

These three boxes were taken by a gentleman named Cleetis Roy, a resident of Powell County, also a former Marine.

Roy refurbished the boxes, painting them red, white and blue, and attached decals to them identifying them as depositories for unserviceable American flags.

Two of the boxes were placed in Clay City and in Stanton, and one resides on the southwest corner of the Clark County Courthouse.

There are no accurate counts of the number of worn and unusable flags which have been deposited in the boxes in Powell County and only rough estimates for the box here in Winchester.

However, Burtner has, since the boxes were first placed, routinely collected the flags left in the boxes and delivered them to the George Rogers Clark High School JROTC, which retires them twice a year in a ceremony designed to see to their demise in a respectful and accepted way.

The JROTC undoubtedly collects some flags from other sources as well.

Burtner estimates the local box produces in the neighborhood of 600 flags every year.  Assuming that figure is reasonably accurate, it would mean the one box here has produced, in 13 years, nearly 8,000 flags for retirement.

It is important to note that, had the box not been available, those 8,000 flags would have most likely ended up in a landfill somewhere, not an acceptable method of disposing of them.

Since the population of Powell County is somewhat less than that of Clark County, it is reasonable to expect the two boxes located there may have produced fewer flags than the one box here.

Still, the same period of time may well have resulted in the collection of some 5,000 flags there.

These collection boxes facilitate the prescribed method for disposing of unserviceable American flags.

All this is illustrates just one of the functions the Marine Corps League undertakes.

For several years, the local detachment provided an Honor Guard that not only served at many private events, but led the parade of cancer survivors at the annual Relay for Life and provided services for many funerals of veterans of all services, not only here but in Lexington, Richmond, Wilmore, Paris, Mt. Sterling and Camp Nelson.

Regrettably, death has thinned the ranks of the detachment and there are no longer enough members to provide an Honor Guard.

The detachment, through its fundraising events, has contributed hundreds of dollars to worthwhile veteran support groups, including the Veterans Affairs hospital, the USO, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Semper Fi Fund.

More locally, funds have been funneled to Hospice East, Operation Happiness, the JROTC and, most significantly, Relay for Life (both here and in Powell County) which has been the beneficiary of several thousand dollars.

Now age is taking its toll on the members and younger members are not filling the gaps as needed, but this detachment, No. 1113, has and will continue to be an active force in the community.

After all, the Marine slogan, Semper Fidelis, means always faithful.

That is what these old Marines have been … and continue to be.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.