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Wall of Memories touches the hearts of many

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor
photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Jo Ann Flagg, designer and caretaker of the "Wall of Memories" in the BX Mall, proudly displays a portion of her work. Anyone interested in donating to the wall should contact the Retiree Activities Office at 828-4455.

There are many pieces of history on permanent display here to remind us of the rich military history MacDill has to offer many generations to come. Many people who pass the artifacts on display in the Base Exchange Mall see a cleverly designed montage of military photos and artifact. Many veterans, however, see pieces of history that represent the values that make America great, and they feel the love, pain and hope that comes with those memories.

Jo Ann Flagg, designer and caretaker of the "Wall of Memories" in the BX Mall, began the project more than 10 years ago in an effort to break away from the trend of sports themes used to decorate military stores.

Her main concern at the time was trying not to draw out bad memories of war in the large retiree population here. Those fears were soon laid to rest as the she began to notice a steady flow of admirers enjoying the hard work she put into identifying each piece and its history.

Most information about the history of each piece comes from the person who donates it. Where gaps in the history exist, Mrs. Flagg uses what information she can find on the internet to fill in the blanks before she places the piece on the wall. Artifacts on display include World War I medals, helmets, many photos and even an airplane propeller.

Those pieces represent much more than just decorations though. They represent pain, suffering and devastation caused by war. But in those same pieces hanging in the BX mall, there is love, commitment to a cause and hope for the future. That is why Mrs. Flagg has continued her "mission in life" for so many years.

"I just want the younger generation of military people to remember how different the wars are now," she said. "I want them to know what people went through."

Her latest additions to the wall are pencil sketches of operations which took place during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mrs. Flagg hopes to put more items from that same conflict on display but has yet to receive the donations she needs. Since her retirement from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Feb. 27, Mrs. Flagg won't be around to take donations personally. Arrangements have been made with the Retiree Activities Office. Anyone interested in donating photos or any other memorabilia should call 828-4455.

Even though Mrs. Flagg has retired, she plans to continue documenting history through her art.

"I plan to keep on doing it until they won't let me anymore," she said resolutely.

She added that AAFES planned to take everything down in the past, but due to customer requests, they left the wall in place. "(History) is just too important not to have something for people to see what really happened," she said.

 

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