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Chittenango: Flags dishonored

Linda Kendall of North Street walks Chittenango's streets for miles every day. Along the way, she picks up trash and makes note of problem areas that conflict with her sense of community pride.

Earlier this month, Kendall was visiting in Oakwood Cemetery on Lake Street when she was certain she'd mistaken what she was seeing: a portion of an American flag hanging from the cover of the cemetery's Dumpster.

"There are three or four graves I tend to up there," Kendall said. "When I am there, I right any fallen flags and pick up the broken ones to take them for proper retirement at Watchfire at the [New York State] Fairgrounds."

Kendall said she passed the Dumpster and saw a flag hanging out.

"So, I thought I would take it home and add it to the others I will bring to the Fairgrounds in May," Kendall said.

What she saw when she was retrieving the flag was very disturbing, she said.

"As I lifted the cover, I found what appeared to be dozens more of these flags," Kendall said. "I opened the other lid and found even more."

Kendall said she stopped counting after reaching 80.

American Legion Commander Jim Gooley was upset to hear of Kendall's find.

"Every year, we place more than 500 American flags on graves in the town of Sullivan," Gooley said. "We spend much time researching and placing the flags on veterans' graves, then with the help of the Boy Scouts, we go around and pick them up after Veterans' Day, as weather permits."

After the flags are collected, Gooley and his colleagues hold proper burnings for them, he said. In addition, members of the public also bring retired flags.

"We do this at our Post in a special container," Gooley said of the ceremony. "We then say a small prayer for the people these flags represented over the years, put them in the container and light them."

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