Four hundred and twenty five American flags flying over wooden crosses and dog tags will greet travelers through Roberts for the next two weeks.
The display is more than a generic patriotic display. Each monument bears the name of a current or former resident who served in the United States Armed Forces. The number is particularly impressive considering the town’s population is just a hair over 350.
Airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines who lived in Roberts served in conflicts as far back as the Civil War and as recent as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two service members were present at the attack on Pearl Harbor, three fought under General George S. Patton and another stormed the beaches of Normandy.
“The history here is just overwhelming,” said Kyle McKinney, who floated the idea for the first memorial in 2015.
McKinney is the mother of a Marine who served in Iraq. She moved to Roberts several years ago and got the idea from her previous home in Duluth, Georgia, where a similar memorial is erected every year.
The Roberts Activity Committee was looking for ways to bring the community together when she floated the idea. Now the display is set up along U.S. Highway 212 in the weeks surrounding Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
It’s also growing quickly. The first year volunteers planted less than 100 crosses and dog tags. This year there are 299 crosses for service members who have passed away while serving or since and 126 dog tag cutouts for people who are currently serving or have served and are still alive.
Some of the crosses and dog tags are placed by the service member’s relatives and others are installed by dozens of volunteers.
Clifford Long has lived in Roberts for all of his 82 years. Two of the wooden crosses bear the names of a brother and an uncle and he’s helped put the display up each of the last three years. On Sunday he attached flags to the monuments, many carrying familiar names.
“Some of them I knew,” Long said. “Some of the real old ones, like World War I, of course I didn’t. But I knew a lot of them.”
The flags, dog tags and crosses will be on display through the Memorial Day weekend and the following week.