Disabled Vets Participate In ArtPrize, Flag Retirement

Posted at 5:35 PM, May 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-28 06:05:57-04

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — The American Legion Post 47 in Comstock Park started a new tradition by inviting disabled vets to become part of the flag retirement ceremony on Memorial Day.

Some of the group that was in attendance this year are also part of an ArtPrize project called Fashion Has Heart.

Infantry Capt. James Van Thach, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was on hand for the ceremony with his service dog, Liz. Van Thach said he has designed a pair of boots and a T-shirt for the project, which honors what they went through in the war zone.

“Coming here to Grand Rapids, feeling the love of the community and connecting with Fashion Has Heart, has uplifted my spirit, not only physically, but mentally,” said Capt. said Van Thach. “It is a great healing process that Fashion Has Heart has instituted.”

The veteran said he is the son of immigrants from South Vietnam. They don’t have the freedoms there that exist here, something worth sacrificing for, he said.

“I appreciate graduating college, law school, and my family, who is here, has peace in this country,” said Van Thach.

“We hope to convey a message that freedom’s not free,” said Dave Nicholson, a wounded vet, “that somewhere, somebody is paying for your everyday privileges to enjoy in a democracy.”

Thach and Nicholson said they’re grateful to help honor the flag they fought under.

The flag retirement ceremony has been an integral part of the American Legion ritual since at least the 1930s. The American Legion post hosts a flag retirement ceremony every year on Memorial Day.