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Great Lakes sailors make 'living' flag for Flag Day
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Roughly 7,400 sailors lined up to make a "living" U.S. flag Monday at Great Lakes Naval Station to honor Flag Day. Sailor Aaron Nicholson, right, helped direct the sailors into formation, which was a re-creation of an event that took place in 1917.

 

Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Sailor Aaron Nicholson, center right, directs sailors into position as about 7,400 sailors made a "living" U.S. flag Monday at Great Lakes Naval Station.

 

Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

About 7,400 sailors created a "living" U.S. flag Monday at Great Lakes Naval Station. Monday was Flag Day.

 

Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Navy Capt. Caroline Olinger, left, and Cmdr. Theresa Lewis lead a chant of "Go Navy! Beat Army!" as about 7,400 sailors made a "living" U.S. flag Monday at Great Lakes Naval Station. The chant is to be included in television coverage of this year's Army-Navy football game.

 

Gilbert R. Boucher | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/14/2010 5:17 PM

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About 7,400 sailors re-created a slice of military history Monday morning as part of Flag Day at Great Lakes Naval Station near North Chicago.

With some wearing crisp dress whites and others in blue camouflage-style uniforms, the sailors portrayed the Stars and Stripes on Ross Field for what was called a "living" U.S. flag. Navy video and still photographers captured the moment from a crane.

Capt. Theresa Gee, commanding officer of the Great Lakes Hospital Corps School, was among those who took in the sight from the headquarters building roof across from Ross Field. She and others came away impressed.

"I really believe it brings us all together," Gee said. "We're one Navy."

About 10,000 sailors gathered on Ross Field for the original living flag in November 1917. In celebration of the armistice, they depicted a 48-star flag, which was captured by photographer Arthur Mole through an 11- by 14-inch view camera.

Organizers studied the 1917 living flag as part of their preparation for Monday's event. Navy Capt. Caroline Olinger, who led the effort, said the ground was marked and lined, similar to a football field, for positioning.

Still, there was plenty of shuffling to ensure 7,400 sailors were in the right spots to be a star, stripe or flagpole just before the photo was taken. Directions came from above and the ground.

"I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks for all the patience, time and energy extended to this effort by all hands," Olinger said in her rooftop remarks before demanding a hearty "hoo-yah" from the sailors on the field.

As part of their living flag duty, the sailors provided a chant for a spirit clip that should air during television coverage of this year's Army-Navy football game. "Go Navy! Beat Army!" the sailors yelled on cue.

Great Lakes is the Navy's only boot camp and has many technical schools. An estimated 40,000 recruits are expected to graduate to become sailors this year.

Recruits typically are not allowed to be part of the outside world during their eight-week training, but about 1,000 nearing completion or who just graduated participated in Monday's living flag re-creation.

Capt. John Peterson, commanding officer of Great Lakes' Recruit Training Command, said the event reinforced Navy history to junior sailors.

"It's pretty neat," he said. "It is a real reminder that they're part of something big."