Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Court of Honor- History
IN THE BEGINNING…
The Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Court of Honor, Red Oak Iowa was established for the purpose of being a living memorial to deceased veterans from Montgomery County and the surrounding area. In 1938, a man from Red Oak, Roy (Percy)Breese was visiting friends in Fullerton,California over Veterans Day. The friends took Roy to a cemetery near Fullerton, where he saw an “avenue of flags” on display. The display was made of casket flags from veterans who were buried there.
Each family had paid a $15 fee to have the flag flown in the “avenue of flags”. Being a WW I veteran, Roy was in total awe of what he had witnessed that day.
It wasn’t until 1961, when Roy Breese returned to Red Oak, that he told his VFW post of what he had seen that day in California. His hope was that this idea could be used in Red Oak to honor veterans. The VFW Commander Frank (Bud) Canfield Jr., was inte
rested in persuing this idea and appointed Breese, Clarence Totty and John Ridgeway to determine the feasibility of the project. On June 8th, Ridgeway reported back to Canfield that permanent committee consisting of the Chaplain, Service Officer and one appointed member needed to be assigned to the newly formed “Court of Honor.” The flags of the first Court of Honor, numbering 52 were flown in the City Square Park on Veterans Day, November 11th, 1961.
Soon after that day, Charles Breedlove, a VFW member, was quoted as saying “…we’ve got a tiger by the tail, and it’s going to come back to bite us.” Little did anyone at the time know how true his prediction would become.
Initially, the VFW was responsible for the flags, as the numbers grew larger, the American Legion was asked to help. As the years passed the flags and poles become so numerous that it was decided to create a separate entity to manage the flags and poles. The entity became the Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Court of Honor.
RUNNING OUT OF ROOM…
In the beginning, the flags were kept at the dry-cleaners, so they could be cleaned and mended as needed. As the numbers grew, the flags were moved to the basement of City Hall and the wagon that carried the poles was kept at the old fire station. No one knows for sure what other equipment was stored in members garages and basements throughout the city of Red Oak. Long time member, Dell Shepard identified the need for “a home of our own” and challenged the Court of Honor to raise funds for a building to house everything in one place. A successful fund raising campaign resulted in the building now standing in Legion Park. The building was completed and dedicated in the fall of 1991. It consists of a meeting room, an office, flag room and a garage area for pole wagons and equipment. During the 1990’s, the number of flags continued to grow and an addition was constructed to house another pole wagon.
The Court of Honor is sustained by the sale of flags and poles and by donations from the general public. We have no dues, nor do we charge for putting a flag in the Court of Honor. To cover expenses related to the building, the Court of Honor hosts an annual Soup and Pie Supper to raise money.
The Court of Honor is lead by the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, whose principal duties are to control the ongoing function of receiving, dedicating and flying of the casket flags donated to our care. Several committees divide the work and strive to promote patriotism throughout the community. No member of the Court of Honor receives any compensation for any duties pertaining to the Court of Honor.
The Court of Honor conducts two ceremonies during the year. One is Veteran’s Day, November 11th and the other is Memorial Day, the last Monday of May. In recent years, members have presented patriotic programs for schools and commumity groups.
WHAT WE STAND FOR…
We, in the Court of Honor, are paying tribute to all the men and women in this area who have served their country in the Military. It is indeed and impressive sight to see these flags flying in the beeeze at the Evergreen Cemetery here in Red Oak on Memorial Day.