NORTH YARMOUTH — You might say that in Gail Strattard’s eyes, every veteran is a star – and so deserves to get one.
When North Yarmouth’s flags become faded, worn, or torn, Strattard preserves some key elements – the stars – before they are retired.
A member of the local Lioness Club, which is affiliated with Lions Club, the nearly 20-year resident of North Yarmouth said she saw a fellow member from northern Maine handing out stars removed from flags, “and so I decided to bring it to this end of the state.”
Looking for a way to get old flags that were going to be put to rest, Strattard contacted Darla Hamlin, a member of North Yarmouth’s Flag Committee, who was happy to help.
“Darla has really thrown herself into it, and given me every flag that has needed to be recycled,” Strattard said.
Hamlin is pretty enthusiastic about Strattard, too.
“If somebody were to ask me to describe Gail, I would say she exemplifies volunteerism in North Yarmouth,” Hamlin said. “She’s involved in everything.”
Strattard places each star in a clear plastic bag, to create a small memento of service.
“It’s so mobile,” she said. “You can send it in a letter, you can pass it out,” as Hamlin has, at veterans’ functions.
Each one carries this saying: “I am a part of our American Flag. I have flown over the Town of North Yarmouth, Maine. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that your service to our Country is not forgotten.”
Strattard gives the Flag Committee stars to distribute. Hamlin recalled first handing them out at a Korean War veterans ceremony.
“It brought tears to their eyes,” she said. “So it’s a very meaningful project. … She’s really, in her own little way, spreading a lot of joy.”
Strattard – now semi-retired after working at the Gov. Baxter School for the Deaf in Falmouth for 36 years – estimated that she has given out about 100 stars in the past few years.
“It’s very simple, and … I think it’s profound,” she said, noting that she puts them on windows of cars bearing a veterans sticker, or passes them out to people wearing veterans caps.
“They just say ‘Thank you,'” Strattard said. “And I say, ‘thank you for (your) service.'”
“You give, and you know they appreciate it,” she added. “And it comes back to you. Just one small token; it’s amazing what it can do.”
Gail Strattard of North Yarmouth removes stars from retired flags to give to military veterans.