Forty-eight stars will fly proudly above Kennewick Avenue this Flag Day.
Dean Jacobson of Kennewick picked up two 10-foot-long by 5-foot-high American flags as he was leaving an airbase he helped build on Okinawa as part of the Navy’s 4th Construction Battalion after World War II.
The flags flew over Okinawa and Saipan while the Seabees worked on airfields to stage air raids on Japan.
“When they started discharging people, they had a lot of stuff nobody seemed to be interested in,” Jacobson said. “So I picked (the flags) up and put them in my duffel bag.”
Jacobson, 89, who served from 1944-46, worked as a “powder monkey,” handling dynamite during construction of air strips.
He put the flags aside when he got home, quickly forgetting about them, he said. A native of the Vancouver, Wash., area, he moved to the Tri-Cities in 1947 and went on to spend more than four decades working as a mechanical foreman and supervisor.
But Jacobson came across an interesting discovery about a month ago when he was cleaning out a closet where his wife, Billie, who died in 2006, kept extra sewing materials.
“I thought, ‘What in the hell is that?’ ” he said. “I started opening it and it got longer and longer. Then it dawned on me that I brought that back in my duffel bag.”
Jacobson has always flown a flag from his front yard flagpole on patriotic holidays and other special occasions. His nephew, Mike McKever, helped him fly one of his World War II souvenirs for the first time this week to test it out. They plan to put it up for the full day today, which is Flag Day.
“I’ll get up early and put it out,” Jacobson said, adding that his plans could change if it gets too windy.
Jacobson plans to fly the flag on special occasions, including holidays and his birthday, he said. He would like to donate one of the flags to a museum, if one is interested.
The flags each show six horizontal lines of eight stars, signifying the time before Alaska and Hawaii became states.
“It’s fabulous,” said McKever, himself a former Green Beret. “I was born in the era of 48 states. I was fortunate to see the 49th and 50th come in.”