For the past five years, Flag Day has been a time for Vincent Martinez, 85, to show his appreciation to Glen Cove residents who fly the American flag outside their homes throughout the year.
To honor the holiday each year, Martinez, a Navy veteran and Commander of Glen Cove American Legion Post 76, takes note of the addresses where he sees the American flag flying every day and sends them certificates which he calls “Citiations of Appreciation” on behalf of the American Legion.
Martinez, who served aboard a destroyer in the Bay of Korea during the Korean War, said that his efforts were inspired by the sense of support he felt from seeing the American flag during his time in the service from 1952 to 1957.
“Being a military man, you’re overseas, and whenever you see that flag, you feel comfortable,” Martinez said. “Then, you come home and see it, and you’re glad that everybody’s flying it.”
Martinez said he saw very few American flags flying when he began sending out the certificates. He said he hopes his efforts inspire others to catch on as well.
Over the years, Martinez has sent out 327 certificates, in addition to the 18 he is sending out this year. He said he immediately starts looking for more houses as soon as he sends out the most recent batch of certificates.
Tony Anzalone, the adjutant of Glen Cove American Legion Post 76, said the response to Martinez’s efforts has been largely positive.
“We usually get nice ‘thank you’s’ back,” Anzalone said. “I just got a couple back last week, and the people said they were so happy that they were recognized and that they were going to frame the certificate and put it in their home.”
In recognition of Martinez’s initiative, Glen Cove City Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews presented the veteran with a set of two dozen American flag lapel pins on Flag Day.
“He is always eager to share about the history of the American flag, and I thought, ‘What better way than for him to have lapel pins that he can give to young people as he chats with them?’” Stevenson-Mathews said. “It gives him just another opportunity to share his love of the American flag and our country.”
In addition to his contributions to the community through the American Legion, Martinez is also involved in the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department and maintains a garden in the center of town called “Vinny’s Island.” He said that teaching about the history and meaning of the flag is particularly important to him, and that he hopes others will continue his mission in schools and throughout the community.
Martinez said he used to go into third and fourth grade classrooms to teach students about the flag. However, since they were so young, he said he could not go into very much depth. He said he would like to see schools do more with Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs to help students learn more about the meaning of the flag.
“My view is that when senior kids get out of high school, not many know the meaning of the flag or the Pledge of Allegiance,” Martinez said. “So, I wish they would do that, and I wish someone would pick up where I left off, because I don’t do that as much as I used to.”
Stevenson-Mathews said that the simple, personal nature of Martinez’s Flag Day tradition struck him as emblematic of what the city stands for. He said Glen Cove is a small town and that Martinez’s efforts in thanking his neighbors shows what it means to appreciative of one’s hometown.
“That kind of special caring is what makes us great as a city,” Stevenson-Mathews said. “That is at the core of what we are as Americans and that is at the core of what it means to care about where one lives.”