Ralph Hatley displays the American Flag at the Beaver Oaks Airport, values its meaning

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Ralph Hatley stands next to the American Flag at the Beaver Oaks Airport.

The American Flag is an invaluable part of the Beaver Oaks Airport, where Ralph Hatley has flown it since the 1970s. When skydivers and other visitors arrive at the airport on Heiple Road, the flag is one of the first things they see.

"The flag is a symbol of our Constitution, and a symbol of our founders and the freedoms they ensured us with the Constitution," said Hatley, a member of the Estacada American Legion Carl Douglas Post. "It's a symbol of the sacrifices that many people have made to ensure our freedoms."

Hatley has felt a strong sense of patriotism since he was very young. He joined the U.S. Army at 16 years old, serving in the Korean War.

"I was a paratrooper," he said. "I was paid $50 more a month to jump out of airplanes."

He added that patriotism is in his blood.

"My ancestors walked the Oregon Trail back in the 1800s. My father served in the Army in the 1920s," he said. "I learned to salute the flag. When I took my oath, I took it seriously. I take it seriously to this very day."

Hatley noted that many freedoms that have been fought for in the United States are still here today.

"The opportunity is still great here in America to have the freedom to enhance our livability," he said.

Hatley said that it's important for people to

respect the American

flag and what it symbolizes.

"I think everybody should be educated on the history of our country and how the Constitution was formed, the very intelligent people that formed our nation and how the flag has progressed," he said. "It's important to bring forward the history of our flag, and the people who sacrificed for our freedoms."

In Estacada, there will be a Memorial Day ceremony to honor those who died during active military service. The ceremony is organized by the Estacada Support Our Troops Foundation and will take place from 11 a.m. to noon, Monday, May 28, at the Estacada Veterans Memorial, 267 N.E. Second Ave.

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