LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Two days a year, the Orange Grove Graceland Cemetery is home to the nation's largest display of veteran casket flags. But what happens to those flags the other 363 days? They are stored here in a concrete building near the display.
"We have a well-made storage shelter," said Ted Harless of the Avenue of Flags. "It's like a bomb shelter, made out of concrete walls. But the roof got old. We started having leaks. We were putting tarps over them and kept the place dry at all times. We needed a roof bad."
Vietnam Veteran Carroll Guidry takes his job of flag care taker seriously.
"I had done some work on the roof to patch up some leaks," said Guidry. "It was difficult to walk around because of the condition. So we had to cover the flags with a tarp inside here to protect it."
Fellow volunteer Leroy Leblanc entered the annual Reed's Metals Covering the Community project, writing a letter explaining their challenge. The team at Reeds agreed they needed help.
"Whenever we told them they had won the roof this year, it was a really moving moment," said Nilah Reed, Operations Manager at Reed's Metals. "Mr. Leroy LeBlanc was in tears and couldn't thank us enough."
A few days before Christmas, crews and volunteers with the Reed's team came together and replaced the new roof in less than a day.
"God has blessed us so we want to give back to our community and just be a blessing to someone else every year," said Reed. "Thankfully we've been able to do that."
Guidry says it's a relief knowing these respected flags are safe again.
"Each one of these flags is a soul that has gone before us that has served," said Guidry.
"Being able to help when you have over a thousand deceased veterans and being able to protect their flags really means a lot to us," said Reed.
As Leblanc wrote in his nomination letter, "There may not be a living soul that resides in the building, but it protects and houses the soul of every deceased veteran who has given their all."
The Avenue of Flags is a bi-annual event at Orange Grove-Graceland cemetery on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. To donate a casket flag, call Ted Harless at 337-436-8940.