County Local 1st Vice
President and Putnam
County Unit member
Mark Semo and unit
member Justyn Lewis
pose by an old mailbox
they and other unit
members renovated
into a flag drop box to
allow county residents
to place aging flags
so they can be retired
with dignity. (Photo by
Putnam County)

CARMEL — When the time comes to replace an American flag too tattered or weathered to display, tradition dictates that the old flag be retired with dignity and reverence.

Often, that means veterans organizations such as the American Legion and other groups hold formal flag retirement ceremonies where old flags are retired properly in accordance with U.S. Flag Code, a federal law that notes guidelines for displaying the flag, conduct relating to the flag and proper disposal.

When CSEA members working for Putnam County learned that the county’s Veterans Service Agency planned to create a flag drop outside the agency’s office, they saw a chance to use their talents to ensure the project’s success.

A patriotic project
CSEA Putnam County Local 1st Vice President Mark Semo, a master mechanic at the county, and Justyn Lewis learned about the plans for the flag drop when they were dispatched to the Veterans Service Agency to set a small concrete slab, which was to serve as a base for a mailbox slated to be repurposed for a new cause.

The office’s director, Karl Rohde, recounted the story in his agency’s newsletter, explaining that a local veteran who retired from the U.S. Postal Service had secured an old mailbox that would otherwise have been destroyed.

“We received the work order to set the concrete, so we asked what they planned on doing with the mailbox,” Semo said. “It was a relic. We took it upon ourselves to fix it up for them.”

What started as a small work order resulted in a project drawing in other workers from the county’s Department of Highways and Facilities.

“We searched Google to see what other people had done and then came up with our design,” Semo said. “We had to sand the mailbox down, and then we brought it to our mechanics to free up the door because it wasn’t working well and needed some rivets in it. We fixed it up, painted it and then brought it to our sign shop, where they added a flag and a sign.”

The work and design drew raves, including an article in the Veterans Service Agency newsletter lauding the workers and the retired veteran, Sam Rappa.

Semo noted that the project was truly a group effort. In addition to Lewis and Semo, CSEA Putnam County Unit members Josh Bulcher, Rob Kramer and Rusty Mulkins took part.

“They took it upon themselves to prepare an abandoned mailbox into a distinguished flag drop,” said Putnam County Unit President Janet Canaday. “We’re proud to see how our members not only do their job, but voluntarily go the extra mile when they see the opportunity to help.”

— Jessica Ladlee


About Author

Jessica Ladlee

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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