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Newest flag marks 10 years of flying

Herman Smith, superintendent of the U.S. 80 Bridge, accepts the American flag donated by Blanche Millsaps to fly atop the old bridge.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[4/14/04]The American flag raised Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the raising of the first flag on the old U.S. 80 Bridge, was rededicated to the people who are serving in the armed services, both here and abroad and past and present, by the woman who spearheaded the flag project.

Standing on Navy Circle overlooking the bridge, Blanche Millsaps said it did not seem like 10 years since the Vicksburg Bridge Commission acceded to her request to start flying a flag from the bridge if she supplied one.

“Give us grateful hearts for our time together here on this occasion as we remember the anniversary of the placing of this glorious flag for all to see as they enter and leave our great state,” said the Rev. T. Ed Hightower in the invocation.

Warren County Chancery Clerk Dot McGee helped Millsaps recognize the members of the 1994 and 2004 bridge commission and Warren County Board of Supervisors and other officials. The bridge is owned by the county and operated as a business by the appointees on the commission.

Flags wear out, depending on weather, in three to six months, and can cost from $700 to $1,000 or more. All have been donated by individuals or groups, and Millsaps, a retiree who has come to be known as “the flag lady,” usually has one or two in reserve.

“In July 2001, I had just about given up that the flag would ever fly again,” Millsaps said, recalling a dry spell in donations. As the Fourth of July approached that year, she bought a new flag herself. “I can’t afford to buy a flag every time it wears out,” she said. “From that day until today, I have never had to want for a flag,” Millsaps said.

One of the helpers Millsaps had in those early days was Maj. Gen. Bill Hobgood, commander of the 412th Engineer Command, who told her as long as he commanded the Army Reserve unit, she would always have a flag.

“The 412th Engineer Command was one of the earliest supporters of this project,” said Col. Bennie Terrvell, an officer with the local reserve unit.

Terrell then read the American Creed by William Tyler Payne which noted the United States is a nation established on the principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity for which the nation is known.

“I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag and to defend it against all enemies. That to me sums it all up,” Terrell said. “That is why we are here today, because of our respect for the American Flag and this great nation.”

Millsaps closed the program by presenting a new flag to Herman Smith, bridge superintendent, who then had it raised from the mast at the center of the bridge. The flag was a Christmas gift to Millsaps from her brother, Richard Broome, and her son, David Millsaps Jr.

She, in turn, dedicated it to those in military service.