Stafford Among 28 Ocean County Towns to Receive Commemorative WWI Service Flag

100 Years After the End of the Great War
Oct 10, 2018

A World War I service flag, painstakingly sewn and donated by the Tuckerton-based Seaport Stitchers, was presented to the Stafford Township mayor and council at the meeting of Sept. 25. Ocean County Freeholder John Kelly presented the flag on behalf of Freeholder John Bartlett, whose failing health prevented him from being there.

The flag represents the 77 Stafford residents who served in World War I. In the center of a ring of 13 blue stars (the colonies), a gold star, along with the number 2 above, represents those who died. Stafford’s flag is one of 28 the Stitchers created, in a single year – one for each town that existed in Ocean County at the time. The flags are now being formally unveiled in the weeks leading up to Veterans Day.

Mayor John Spodofora, a U.S. Navy veteran, said the flag will be proudly displayed in Stafford Township.

Bartlett is a retired history teacher. His enthusiasm for the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War prompted him to read 100 books about World War I. In an interview in February with Out & About Ocean County, a periodical of the Ocean County Cultural and Heritage Commission, he lamented World War I is too often forgotten, in his opinion, despite its being “the seminal event in modern history.” The First was “so much more complicated” than the Second, he said. Even its name is problematic, he explained. It was named the Great War, but decades later renamed World War I, only as it related to World War II. Many symbols and memories were co-opted by the Second World War, almost as if the second was a continuation of the first, he said. Armistice Day was repurposed and repackaged as Veterans Day. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a WWI monument that became the Tomb of the Unknowns, dedicated to all American service members who have died without their remains identified.

“It’s terrible, how we just ignore our history,” he said.

According to that same article, the concept of the service flag was invented in 1917 by Army Capt. Robert Quessner. Traditionally such a flag would have a red border, white field, and blue (or gold) stars for family members in the war. Traditionally hung in the windows of homes, by 1918 they were showing up in businesses, churches, and town and county offices. A blue star meant the service member had survived; a gold star meant he had died. A silver star designating a wounded soldier was adopted sometime in the last 10 years.

“It’s not easy to come up with a list of 77 names,” according to township and county historian Tim Hart, who is also director of the Cultural and Heritage Commission.

There is no official list of Ocean County residents who died in the war, so the commission staff compiled a list using “every way we can think of to get a name,” according to Nick Wood, including old newspapers, genealogical indexes and monuments. Ultimately they determined 2,433 from Ocean County served, and 75 died.

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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