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Stolen WWII, American flags still AWOL

Banks memorial site will get new ones on Flag Day

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Jim Bray of Tigard stands near the spot where an American flag and the flag of the Army's 10th Mountain Division were stolen from a memorial site near Banks last month. New flags will fly at the spot in mid-June.The Army’s 10th Mountain Division was trained in mountain warfare and fought the German army on skis in the mountains of Italy during World War II. But the once-mighty division’s Washington County members haven’t been able to recover a flag, dedicated to their unit, which was stolen from a memorial site near Banks more than three weeks ago. “It made us sick,” said Tigard resident Jim Bray, who discovered the theft of the colorful flag — featuring red, white and blue stripes, a logo with two crossed swords and the words “Climb to Glory” emblazoned in yellow — on a return trip from the coast April 24.

Bray’s companion, Lorraine Young of Vancouver, Wash., was the first to notice something was amiss.

“Lorraine said, ‘The flag’s not there,’” said Bray, whose wife Mary died in 2000. “So we called the police.”

Bray, who served in the Army from 1943-46 and is the former president of the 10th Mountain Division Association’s Northwest chapter, said the thief also stole an American flag and damaged a gate and an informational placard at the memorial, located at a weigh station at the confluence of Highway 26 and Highway 6, near mile post 54 on the way to Tillamook.

A grove of trees surrounds the Heritage Memorial thousands of people pass by on their way to Oregon beaches each year. “Whoever thought they needed our flag must have thought they were more important than the public,” Bray said.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Bob Ray said Monday the flags had not yet been recovered. He called the division flag, in particular, “very distinct” and said he still hoped someone would call with information about where it could be.

At 88, Bray said he’s “one of the younger guys” among a handful from the division still living in the county. He’s been buoyed by several offers to replace the flags — one from Summerplace Assisted Living in Northeast Portland, home to two dozen WWII vets, and another from a North Plains resident.

A new set of flags will be dedicated on Flag Day next month in honor of the veterans, said Bray. "It will be nice to see them back up there."

Veterans from the 10th Mountain Division — and their kids, grandkids and great-grandkids — tend the memorial site. The first tree was planted in 1995. Whenever a vet from the division passes away, Bray said, they plant a new tree. by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - This is a flag representing the Army's 10th Mountain Division.

The group also adopted a two-mile stretch of the highway and has picked up litter in years past, but isn’t quite as active at that task as it used to be.

“We don’t pick up the whole two miles anymore,” Bray said with a wry smile. “It’s hard to push our walkers down the road.”


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