The Flag Giver retires
Like the tree in Shel Silverstein’s classic children’s book, “The Giving Tree,” Bob Schneider felt this Memorial Day that he has given everything he had to give – to his country.
The 89-year-old World War II veteran announced after Monday’s Memorial Day parade in Kewaunee that it is the last year that he will give out American flags to children before the parade.
Schneider has been giving out flags for 69 years, since he returned to Kewaunee after serving in the U.S. Army as a supply sergeant from 1945 to 1947. Before that, his father, Charles Schneider, a World War I veteran, gave out flags for children from 1918 until his son took over.
The father and son have been giving out flags for 98 years.
“We enjoyed it, especially watching the joy that the kids got out of it,” said Schneider. “I think the best reaction was when the kids just said ‘thank you'”
He estimates that he and his father gave out about 100 flags each year, supplied by the American Legion.
The Schneider family’s patriotism runs deep. Charles helped organize Kewaunee’s American Legion Post No. 29 with Leo Bruemmer and Wenzel Hamachek after World War I.
“”I can still remember Bob’s father giving out flags to me when I was a boy,” said Lloyd Nimmer, a Korean War veteran who was born in 1934.
This year, Nimmer, as part of the Memorial Day services in Kewaunee, remembered Charles’ gift by putting a flag on his grave at Riverview cemetery.
Schneider, a lifelong Kewaunee resident who graduated from Kewaunee High School in 1945, said that giving out flags was “just a responsibility that you had.”
He also expressed his patriotism by serving as the leader of Kewaunee’s Boy Scout troop for a decade, where he taught love of country and helped many boys, including his son, Garth, earn their Eagle Scout award.
He continued to serve on the Boy Scout Council until the 1990s.
The former publisher of the Kewaunee Star, Schneider went on to attend Marquette University after the war. He worked for many years at Hamilton Industries in Two Rivers before taking over his father’s role at the newspaper.
Schneider said that the number of people participating in the Memorial Day parade has dwindled over the years.
His daughter, Terry, remembers when the parade started at the Karsten Hotel and proceed to several cemeteries before ending at the elevated gazebo at the Kewaunee County Courthouse. All of the children would decorate their bikes to ride in the parade and there would be many speeches made from the gazebo, she said.
“I remember the roll call of the fallen,” she said. “When you live through a war, you learn to understand loss and develop patriotism,” she said.
Schneider said that he only handed out about 25 flags to children this year.
“It used to be that the kids were running up to you for the flags and then they would be waving them,” he said. “Now it seems that the spirit has gone out of it … but times change.”
Schneider said it will be up to the American Legion to find another veteran to take over his position.
Neither his son, who is a physician, nor daughter, a retired teacher, qualify as they did not serve in the military, he said.
It may be appropriate to find a veteran of a more recent war, Terry suggested.
“I think that there are a lot of young people who are patriotic,” she said, noting that patriotism has increased after 9/11 and among young people who have served in Iraq.
“But it has to be the people who work in this community and are part of this community,” Schneider said.
Any veteran who is interested in carrying on Schneider’s role should contact Nimmer, who is a member of the American Legion Post 29. His phone number is 920-388-2318..
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: The Flag Giver retires