Where does one find a 76-by-50 foot American flag nowadays?
The one man to ask is CPN’s Roy Wano, an event coordinator for the Naval Enlisted Reserve of Oklahoma, who organized a retirement ceremony at FireLake Arena in late August to officially retire the group’s gigantic American flag.
Originally purchased by the organization in 1976 for around $3,000, the banner was a perfect accompaniment to celebrate the United States’ 200th anniversary. For Oklahoma residents attending an event in the last three decades who’ve seen a basketball court sized large American flag, it’s been a result of Wano’s work in getting it to whoever requested its use. It never cost anything for the flag to be used at an event.
“It’s an honor just to take it somewhere and see someone covering their heart and saluting the flag,” explained Wano. “It’s something special.”
In lieu of rental fees for the flag, Wano told The Oklahoman’s Steve Gust that the naval enlisted reserve asked that a $50 donation be made to the group.
“We used that to help veterans,” Wano told Gust. “If someone needed groceries, we could buy them.”
The long serving flag was officially retired at a ceremony attended by approximately 200 at FireLake Arena. Color guards and tribal veteran groups from many Oklahoma tribes attended the event, with opening prayers and ceremonies taking place. The CPN Veterans Organization Color Guard helped carry the colors to open the event.
The Oklahoma branch of the U.S. Sea Cadet Corps also took part in color guard activities as well.
Typically, Wano explained, the flag is carried in parades by troops of Boy Scouts, with more than a dozen people needed at minimum to keep it off the ground. In fact, since it was originally purchased by the Naval Enlisted Reserve of Oklahoma it in 1976, it has only been folded into a triangle once.
“It’s just so large, and it takes so many people, probably 30 or 40 people, that it really is difficult to do it properly and in an honorable fashion,” said Wano.
Now that its service is complete and the flag has been officially retired, it doesn’t mean the end of Wano’s mission. The same company who made the original flag back during the U.S.’ bicentennial has agreed to specially make a second, despite no longer creating the large-scale flags.
“It’s being made right now,” Wano commented in late August, “so we should have it in the next few weeks.”
The Texas company, U.S. Flag and Flagpole Supply LP, knowing about the Naval Enlisted Reserve of Oklahoma’s mission, has agreed to match its 1976 price for the flag and is selling the new one for just $3,000.
“They were gracious enough to help us in the replacement of our flag, at a price that would allow us to continue our mission of honoring our nation’s veterans,” said Wano.
Wano, though not a service veteran, is a recognizable figure with the CPN Veteran’s Organization in Shawnee, attending their monthly meetings on occasion as part of his service with the naval enlisted reserve. He is also the son of well-known tribal veteran Max Wano. In the coming months, the younger Wano says he’ll be working with CPN on preparations for a burn for the retired flag.