Tommy Taylor: Stars and Stripes for Sacrifice and Service

by | Jun 2024

AS MEMORIAL Day begins, the first light of dawn casts a gentle golden glow over Lincoln Cemetery. Rows of headstones stand sentinel beneath the sprawling canopy of ancient trees, the weathered surfaces bearing silent witness to the passage of time. Here and there, fluttering in the gentle morning breeze, are the stars and stripes of the American flag, each one a poignant reminder of sacrifice and service. The air is heavy with a sense of reverence —as if the very earth itself pays homage to those who rest beneath its hallowed ground. It is a solemn yet stirring scene where the echoes of history mingle with the promise of a new day and where the true meaning of Memorial Day is felt in every fluttering flag. 

The flags were placed there days earlier by Tommy Taylor and his wife, Vickie, who order them each year for Prospect, Stewart, Pleasant Hill, and Lincoln cemeteries. They place any remaining flags at Riverview Cemetery in Fayetteville. 

Tommy said, “All the Taylor men were in the military. My grandfather was in World War I, my dad and uncles were in World War II, and my uncle, Henry Taylor, the youngest of the Taylor men, was in Vietnam. My brother, Randy, was in the National Guard, and my stepson, Chase Clevenger, is an Iraqi War vet.”

Tommy is a Vietnam veteran and served in the U.S. Navy. 

“I know the hardships the vets went through. I developed a friendship with the people I served with. It’s a brotherhood, and it continues today, and that’s true for all veterans,” stated Tommy.

To honor his father following his death, Tommy proudly displayed the American flag each Memorial Day. One day, a decision to honor as many veterans as possible became a project that most recently placed 400 flags on the graves of those who served our country and were buried in Lincoln County. The number of flags ordered grows each year.

“We put the flags out a couple of days before Memorial Day, and most often, the cemeteries are having Decoration Day at this time of year,” he said. “It’s always a beautiful site with new flowers and flags.”

But it’s much more than decoration.

“It’s to honor our vets who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. They are the true heroes. For me, to present a flag to each gravestone honors the courage and valor they represent. They all deserve our deepest respect,” he said reverently.

Tommy’s commitment to honoring those who defend our country extends beyond the Memorial Day weekend. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s appeal in his 1961 inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” Tommy rises to the challenge as a way of life.He explained, “We must educate and teach values to our children, for they are our future leaders. Part of their education is world history — Camp Blount, the world wars, and local, country, and worldwide conflicts. We must always honor our veterans and support those still with us.”

He furthers the mission of education in his service with Camp Blount, the Tennessee historic site in Fayetteville. Thousands of Tennessee soldiers commanded by Gen. Andrew Jackson assembled there in 1813, a muster that launched the campaign that ended the Red Stick forces at Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814.

“We can never forget the history of such people like Andrew Jackson and David Crockett walking on this Camp Blount site,” said Tommy. “This year, we’re having our third annual volunteer days Sept. 27-28. Each year, school children from all our county and city schools attend reenactments, demonstrations, lectures, and cannon firing.”

In addition to his work with Camp Blount, Tommy works with the Lincoln Community Center and serves on the Lincoln Cemetery board. He sees and appreciates the community’s involvement and assistance in raising funds to maintain the cemetery and the center. He is proud, too, of the Warrior Exhibit in Fayetteville and the community’s support of Linda Williams’ work there. 

He said, “I enjoy helping others. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized there are organizations out there that are great for Lincoln County. It’s an honor to be part of Camp Blount and Lincoln Cemetery boards. 

Tommy’s dedication waves proudly on the stars and stripes he places at each headstone, honoring our country and those who protect it with their lives. It’s saluted as he works to share the history of Camp Blount and quietly goes about making sure our heroes are never forgotten. 

We thank you, Tommy, for your service! GN 

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