A group of volunteers cruised Corona del Mar early today, installing about 120 flags along East Coast Highway to celebrate Independence Day.
“God bless America,” said Ray Kilz of Balboa Island while he jogged in a fine mist to install another flag.
The tradition began years ago — the volunteers don’t remember exactly when. The group gathers about 6 a.m. seven times a year on patriotic holidays and on Sept. 11. They divide into teams, trying to beat their records for installing the flags quickly. Today, after about 40 minutes, the group gathered at Pain Du Monde for their traditional coffee break.
“This is family here,” said volunteer Vaughn Barnes of Corona del Mar.
Barnes said he was thinking about his son, Andrew Barnes, as he installed the flags. His son is a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan, Barnes said.
“I was Skyping him Friday and I head mortars,” Barnes said. “He said he had to go, had to get into a bunker…”
Other volunteers said they were veterans, and others said they loved the United States and freedom.
“I’m a patriot,” said Tom Boris of Newport Coast.
“It’s an honor,” said Jacqueline Wittmeyer of Corona del Mar, who organizes the flag installations. “Everyone who is here wants to be here because it’s an honor to them.”
Wittmeyer said new flags are always needed, and donors who contribute $100 will receive a certificate from U.S. Rep. John Campbell.
“Some people make the donation in honor of a new baby or for a birthday,” she said.
She also said volunteers are always needed — particularly for removing the flags late in the afternoon. Anyone who is interested could call her at (949) 338-9393.
Other volunteers today were David Riley, Tiana Roman, Jim Digrado, Mike Lesher, Steve Jelnick, Giana Giannulli, Vance Gay and Jeff Adamek.
Read about last year’s flag volunteers here.