The thrill of seeing the Stars and Stripes snapping in a good breezehas not faded for Samuel G. Kemp. Even at 70, the Brooklyn Park man finds joy in just looking up at her, watching the colors fly.
"To me, I never get tired of it," said Kemp, who owns Cedar Hill Florist."I think it's the most beautiful thing in the world."
One might realize that driving by his florist shop on Ritchie Highway, the one with the giant Old Glory flying from a 70-foot flagpoleout front. That's 600 square feet of red, white and blue up there, waving below the eagle that roosts atop the pole, stretching its wingsthree feet across.
"I like my country," said the World War II veteran. "I just wish I could make (the flag) bigger."
Much bigger, though, and the flag would threaten the dominance of the giant banner at Fort McHenry, all 1,260 square feet of it. Wouldn't want to do that, Kemp said.
On Thursday, Kemp ran the American flag back up the pole in front of the store after pulling down the Desert Storm commemorative flag. The 600-square-foot yellow flag with orange trim and "Desert Storm Victory" written in black went up on Feb. 28, the day thestate observed a moment of silence in honor of our troops in the Persian Gulf.
Kemp ordered the flag about three weeks ago from a Baltimore company and told them to put the rush on it. He felt he had to do something, make a statement. The country was at war.
On Thursday, Kemp donated his Desert Storm flag to the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis. Archives administrator, Chris Allan, said "basically, it's here. It can be made available for occasions." Allan said the archives does not have the space to put the huge flag on permanent display.
"I said 'it's up to you to do what you want to do with it,' " said Kemp.
If he had his druthers, though, the state would go flag-crazy, "put flags all over to remind us of what we have, what we could lose."
As long as he can remember, Kemp's been emotional about patriotic symbols and songs.
"Even as a kid I used to get goose pimples when they played the Star Spangled Banner," said Kemp.
That emotion deepened during Kemp's World War II service. He worked in an Army service company for much of his 3 1/2 years in Europe. He drove trucks, shuttled supplies and performed maintenance duties. He servedon the fringe of the Battle of the Bulge, close enough to qualify for membership in Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, one of four veterans organizations to which Kemp belongs.
"I was shot at a couple of times, worked under air raids, lots of air raids . . . I was no hero. I was just there. I went where they told me to go."
Now, he's trying to get residents and politicians behind an effort to erect a veterans memorial in Glen Burnie -- with a flag, of course. It would be much like the granite block that since November 1988 has stood at the foot of the flag pole in front of the florist shop. The block is carved with Kemp's homage to those who served in U.S. wars:
"Give not one inch of our most sacred land to the enemies of freedom. But give all of life's precious blood, if need be to preserve it."