Raising the flag: An East Tennessee man never forgets

A lifetime ritual of raising the flag could soon come to an end as something threatens to keep an East Tennessee veteran of war from saluting the stars and the stripes.
Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:27 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “How will I be remembered?” Glen Wright will be remembered for his daily ritual.

It was hot and humid. The sun was peaking through clouds that passed over the porch where Glen and Sonia Wright were sitting. “Oh Lord,” Glen grunted as he eased himself off the rocking chair on the porch of their Anderson County home.

Birds chirped in the background as Glen slowly began to walk towards the yard. Sonia stayed in her chair, narrating his every move, “This is something he does everyday. He has been doing it...45 years. This is something close to his heart.”

An American flag serves as the centerpiece for Glen and Sonia’s front yard. Glen moved closer to it as Sonia explained, “He has taught every child in this neighborhood how to salute the flag.”

Raising it slowly, Glen revealed what the flag means to him, “It means life, buddy.”

Every morning Glen raises the flag. Then, every night, he takes it down. He never forgets.

“It’s important to him because he gave his life for this Country,” Sonia told WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara. “Twenty-four years in the military? That shows you how much he loves the flag.”

That’s why the ritual is so personal to Glen. He served in Vietnam and Korea and was an engineer in the boiler room of a Navy ship. He sees the flag as a reminder of his service to the country he fought for.

“We always think, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’” Sonia remarked.

Bad things? What did Sonia mean? She wasn’t talking about war. She was talking about something else, a different battle.

“This may be one of the last times he puts the flag up at this home,” Amanda observed. “More than likely. More than likely,” Sonia responded. “It’s sad, it hurts.”

The next time our cameras saw Glen, he was riding in his car, pulling into The Lantern at Morning Pointe, a memory care center in Clinton.

“For the past two years he’s had progressive Alzheimer’s,” Sonia revealed.

The disease is progressing fast. Even Glen admitted, “I can’t remember all of it my memory don’t work right.”

For that reason, Glen moved into The Lantern, an unfamiliar place with one familiar sight. But, before stepping inside his new home, Glen was greeted with a folded American flag and a grounds crew in need of help raising it up the pole. Sonia said the familiarity of that moment brought her husband comfort.

Familiar activities are important for memory care patients and can help them feel comforted, calm and independent, according to Alzheimer’s Project.

“Are you surprised that through everything that he has not forgotten the flag?” asked Amanda. “I’m not a bit surprised because that was a big part of his life, a big part,” said Sonia. “For our small area here he would be known as the person who would teach the young people about the flag.”

That question we asked earlier, “How do we want to be remembered?” Glen will be remembered for the very thing he could soon forget.

What does the American flag mean to you? And, have you ever stopped and asked yourself, "How will I be remembered?"...

Posted by Amanda Hara on Tuesday, June 29, 2021
What does the American flag mean to you? For Glen Wright, the American flag is more than a symbol of freedom and sacrifice. It's a beacon of familiarity in a world that, for him, is starting to feel very unfamiliar.

Copyright 2021 WVLT. All rights reserved.