Rotary honors heroes with flag project

MORGANTOWN — In commemoration of the community’s heroes, Cheat Lake Rotary is preparing for its second year of Flags for Heroes.

The flags will be displayed around Morgantown from Memorial Day until Flag Day, June 14.

The flags are sponsored by anyone wanting to commemorate a hero. They are 3 feet by 5 feet and cost $50 each.

Michael Yura, president of the Cheat Lake Rotary, said a couple years ago one of their Rotarians was riding his motorcycle through Easton, Md., and noticed flags along the highway, and later found they were sponsored by the Rotary. He contacted the group and learned about the Flags for Heroes program. The Cheat Lake club liked the idea of it, and started it in Morgantown.

“I think it just stirs the patriotic nature of our community, and it doesn’t have to be military, but there are a number of military persons — but we all have our definitions of a hero,” said Yura.

Yura is no stranger to service in his community. He taught at WVU for 32 years and started the forensic and biometric program there. He also was president of the Monongalia County Board of Education for many years. His wife, Cathy, directs WVU’s Serenity Place, an on-campus addiction recovery program.

Yura became a Rotarian because one of the assistant deputy directors of the FBI was a Rotarian and invited him to join.

Yura said the stories he’s heard about the Flags for Heroes project are incredible and emotional. Last year, he recalled, he ran into a friend at Lowe’s. Yura told him about Flags for Heroes and spent time talking with him about his dad who had recently died and what a hero he was. Yura also was doing some work at Mon Health Medical Center and another gentleman mentioned his mother was his hero. She had done 10,000 hours of community service.

The Cheat Lake Rotary will have flags honoring heroes and also put stories of those heroes on its website. Those stories can be submitted and will be online for a year. Also, the names of the heroes and the person honoring them will be in the newspaper.

“It’s a neat thing, not only visually, but it allows people to share things in the community with others that become very special,” said Yura.

What Flags for Heroes does is help fund charity projects in the community. The Rotary is helping to put air conditioning in the building the Mountaineer Area Robotics Club uses. Last year, the team was recognized as international champions. Money also goes to Cheat Lake Elementary School to help with buying dirt and things for plants so they can work toward putting in a green house in the next couple years.

Yura said this isn’t just any old fundraiser.

“This has some heart to it,” he said.

He said it’s contagious when people see what others are doing and offers them recognition for the things they do. It’s not that they do it for recognition, but it gives them the opportunity to be noticed as a valued member of their community.

Last year, the flags were placed by the Creative Arts Center as well as on Don Knott’s Boulevard. This year Yura hopes to have 300 flags to place and got permission from United Bank and Clear Mountain Bank to place another 100 flags. Last year he said they put in 214.

“Morgantown is an incredible community. It’s loaded with heroes of various kinds, and to be able to honor them in a very visible way to not only our community but anybody visiting us. They’ll look at Morgantown and say ‘what a neat place to live,’” he said.

Anybody interested in placing a flag can visit cheatlakerotary.org and click the “Heroes for Flags” link. They can also contact Jordon Feathers at 304-319-2694 to receive an application.

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