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DALLAS — Dallas Cemetery caretaker Mike Starks didn’t know there was going to be a parade through the cemetery on Memorial Day until 2:30  on Monday afternoon, but he brought his own American flag and POW/MIA flag to hoist for the occasion anyway.

Starks held the POW flag outstretched in his hands as the procession drove by, greeting his fellow veterans. Many were part of the last-minute parade.

“It was the response of the community to do this,” Starks said after the parade left the cemetery.

Dallas’ annual Avenue of Flags display and ceremony was canceled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings. Each year volunteers post flags along the roads in the cemetery and place name plates on them to honor veterans. Last year’s display included 807 flags and names.

“This year we lost another 21, so that would have been 828 that we would have been honoring except for this situation,” Starks said. “It burns my soul.”

Instead of the 2020 Avenue of Flags, veterans and community members gathered in the Dallas Rite Aid parking lot at about 4:30 p.m. to begin a slow procession to Dallas Cemetery. Dallas Fire, Dallas Police and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office help lead the parade through town, weaving through the cemetery and back to town.

The parade had 40 participants.

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