Local woman gives new life to stars from retired flags

Sean C. Morgan

The trunk of Teneil Marcoccia’s car is usually filled with retired American flags, which typically would be destined for incineration and burial.

But recently, she has begun putting those retired American flags to use as another way to honor the flag and American veterans.

Marcoccia began cutting stars from retired flags donated by the Sweet Home Veterans of Foreign Wars post and distributing them to members of the public and veterans, and collecting a dollar from those who are willing to help shore up the VFW’s funeral fund. She also distributes the “pocket stars” and collects donations through these organizations, as well as at the Bohemian Club tavern. The flags have been retired in ceremonies by those organizations.

Marcoccia got the idea for the flag displays after her father, Jack McCreary, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, received one from an Elks Lodge in Virginia as part of an Honor Flight trip.

“It was a great deal,” McCreary said. The lodge also provided a medallion with an emblem of the lodge building.

“He came home with a bunch of donated stuff,” Marcoccia said. Among the items was a star in a plastic bag. “It gave me the idea to do donations: ‘Here, take a star that’s flown over our country.'”

She began distributing her own stars in plastic bags. In the bag is a printed text: “I am part of our American flag that has flown over the USA. I can no longer fly. The sun and winds caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.”

After her Sweet Home collection began, she expanded, collecting flags from the Lebanon and Newport American Legion posts. She is planning to make the stars available through those locations soon, with proceeds going to those posts.

The stars will be available in a framed format, large and small. She suggested a donation of $30 for the large frame and $20 for the small version. They’ll be available for Christmas if ordered by the end of November.

Marcoccia is bagging the stripes right now and plans to burn them in them on Flag Day, June 14, although she hasn’t gotten the specifics planned yet.

During the first phase of her project, she has packaged and distributed some 300 pocket stars in about three months. Right now, she’s distributing about 10 per week.

“I think it’s great, besides giving her something to do,” McCreary said of his daughter’s effort.

People use them in different ways, Marcoccia said. Some might use it as a patch while others will keep it in a wallet.

“The goal is to keep the awareness that there are veterans who need help,” she said.

At this point, she is exploring the idea of turning her project into a nonprofit organization, she said. “The response we’re getting is huge.”

Some of the stars are from brand new flags, which may have touched the ground, requiring retirement, Marcoccia said. Others are from flags worn by time and weather. Those tend to be the most popular.

The possible uses for the stars are endless, she said. “There’s just no end to it. I’ve got a million ideas.”

She would like to get involved in recovering worn and tattered flags that should be retired and then retiring them in a proper ceremony. That may mean purchasing replacement flags and donating them to those who are flying worn old flags so she can retire them.

“I want everybody to respect our country and respect our flag,” Marcoccia said. By Flag Day, she plans to expand her activities with flags and veterans, perhaps building a committee to raise awareness on a variety of veterans issues.

“Stay tuned,” she said. “It’s a developing program.”

The stars themselves “represent freedom,” Marcoccia said. “It represents hope and helping others in need.”

Marcoccia is seeking volunteers to help her with the program. For more information, to donate or to obtain a star, contact her at (541) 401-4533.

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