Fountain of the Sun residents take their country seriously — and the men and women who serve it with equally deep respect.
That’s why dozens of American flags flank the entrance to the Mesa retirement resort from Broadway Road to the fountain in what passes as the town square for the community — where a veterans memorial displays the replicas of dog tags and the names of hundreds of veterans.
The community’s 43-member Lions Club chapter put the flags up on Flag Day and keeps them through Independence Day.
Members also put up the flags on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day and Presidents Day but only for 24 hours.
“Flag Day comes so close to the Fourth that we just leave them up for those two or three weeks,” explained Kit McCormick, one of the club’s charter members. “It takes a lot of work to do this.”
The Lions have been putting up their formal homage to America on these national holidays for about a decade, having borrowed the idea from the Sun Lakes Lions Club.
It’s a sight that thrills residents and visitors alike, McCormick said.
“People always stop to admire it,” she said. “Whenever we have visitors, they always mention it.”
The memorial was erected about six years ago by the community’s veterans group, another strong and active organization on the Fountain of the Sun campus.
McCormick said veterans conducted an intense fundraising campaign to get the money needed to erect the permanent wall, in which the dog tag replicas are embedded.
Some residents are members of both groups, such as Judy and Ken Ahlberg, the current and past Lions Club presidents, respectively.
While the Fountain of the Sun Lions undertake patriotic tasks, they also do the traditional charitable work that Lions are known for around the world — helping the visually impaired.
McCormick runs a group of about a dozen Lions who collected eyeglasses for recycling.
Typically, she said, they recycle 50,000 pairs of glasses annually, many donated by a nearby Walmart.
While the flag display will be at the community for all to see through Thursday, there won’t be any big public celebration of Independence Day — largely because at least half the residents have gone to their summer homes.
They’ll save the big salute to America for Nov. 11, when all the winter visitors have returned and veterans are formally recognized in an hour-long celebration in the center of the community.
But for residents who live there all year-round, the flag display is one of those things that makes it worth it.
As one resident told the Tribune, “It’s so beautiful. It’s something everyone should see.”