Years ago, Hettinger used to have a collection of every U.S. state flag. It was a point of pride for Hettinger and its surrounding communities to display every state’s flag at parades, sports games, and on military holidays.
Tragically, one year while in storage, a pipe leaked water directly onto the prized collection and damaged the state flags. The consequent mold and water damage from the leak resulted in the retirement of the entire flag collection.
Over twenty years later, former Hettinger mayor and Vietnam Veteran Richard Wyman hasn’t stopped dreaming of reviving the age-old 50 state flag tradition in Adams County.
“Someday I hope to see 50 kids parading down Hettinger’s Main Street with flags in their hands,” said Wyman.
Now that Wyman is retired and in good health, he is making his dream a reality. The former mayor is moving on plans to make “Flag Plaza,” a place in town where every U.S. state flag can be on display.
Wyman’s passion for making Flag Plaza originated from his service in the Vietnam War. Wyman explained that, back in high school, he and his best friend were supposed to go to Vietnam together under the buddy system that the military had put in place.
The government’s buddy system allowed friends to enlist in the army and go through military trainings together. Before they were drafted, however, Wyman’s dad had a heart attack and he didn’t get to go until a year after his friend.
“My best friend in high school was killed in Vietnam. This project is dedicated to him and all the veterans in Perkins and Adams County,” said Wyman.
Wyman said that the U.S. flag has always been important to him and his family.
“My kids knew how to fold the American flag before they even went to school,” laughed Wyman.
Already the former mayor has purchased and donated all 50 state flags, a District of Columbia flag, and a United States flag for Flag Plaza. Wyman said that, although it’s still not determined, he hopes to include the POW/MIA flag, the Canadian and Mexican flags, and possibly even a flag for each branch of the military in Flag Plaza.
With the state flags already purchased, Wyman is now considering locations to put the display. Wyman said that, as of now, Mirror Lake Park is the most likely location for the flags.
He hopes that the flags will be just another reason for travelers to stop and visit Hettinger.
“Maybe someone will slow down, visit the park, and take a look at the flags. Maybe then they will eat meal here, buy a diamond ring here, whatever,” he said.
The tentative plan is to put the flags around the roundabout entrance of the park. According to Wyman, the Park Board is even tentatively considering building a brick or cobblestone walking path around the park curb.
Each flag will be anchored into the ground using a metal rod while PVC piping will allow each flag to rotate in the wind. Wyamn is also looking for a large solar light to keep the American and other county flags alight.
“I envision that teachers will be able to use the flags to teach kids about each state or even flag etiquette,” said Wyman.
Moving forward, Wyman is looking to the Hettinger community for support. Wyman estimated that, if completed, the cost of the entire project and its materials would total four to five thousand dollars.
So far, the former mayor has pitched the project idea to the local Adams County Development Corporation, the Adams County Commissioners, The Beauty of Hettinger Board, and the Jaycees organization. He said that each organization was supportive of the flag project.
“Everything has been positive with the County Commissioners and all the organizations,” said Wyman.
Once Wyman secures both permission and funding, he plans to have the flag waving in the wind as soon as possible.
His plan is to have the flags installed by Flag Day on June 14th and flying during patriotic days and summer months, weather permitting.
“It’s not my project, it’s the city’s project,” said Wyman. “I’ll just be really proud to set up a chair in the park and read a book under the flags.”
Thanks to Wyman’s efforts, Hettinger may once again proudly display its country’s flags and revive an age-old Adams County tradition.