King Hayes, from left, Gary Dymally, Cindy Langpaap and Chilly Willie are among those who tend to the makeshift memorial to "General" John Rogers at the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue. Langpaap held a photo of Rogers, a Vietnam veteran known for unabashed patriotism, on Friday.

Volunteers keep flags
flying for the ‘General’

A veterans group wants a more
permanent tribute to John Rogers
at his Kapiolani corner

By Mary Vorsino

A scattered group of volunteers quietly maintains a makeshift memorial of American and other flags honoring the late "General" John Rogers at the intersection of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue.

"We all take turns (and) when the flags are flying, it just reminds me of the 'General' and his spirit," said Gary Dymally, a friend of Rogers and producer of the "General Rogers Show" on cable public-access TV.

Rogers, a 22-year Army veteran and a "general" in BRAVO Hawaii, died in December after a day of waving the U.S. flag at his corner. He had been waving flags there for nearly four years.

Since the memorial went up this year, more than a dozen flags have been stolen, said Will Haynes, a "colonel" in the veterans' nonprofit BRAVO Hawaii and host of the cable public-access show "Bravo Hawaii."

"A lot of different people, from time to time, want one," he said. "They may have felt kinship with the 'General.' ... They just take them and we try to replace them."

The American, Hawaiian and POW/MIA (prisoner of war/ missing in action) flags unfurl from PVC pipes atop the fence at the Diamond Parking Service lot.

In the days following Rogers' death and funeral, flowers, cards and flags filled the sidewalk where he used to stand.

Dymally and a number of Rogers' friends built the current memorial after most of the original offerings disappeared.

When flags began disappearing, Haynes was convinced people were suffering deeply from Rogers' loss and not stealing the flags for amusement, he said.

"Sometimes, people do strange things. There are people who feel a connection with the General. ... They are grieving and missing a friend. We just look past it," he said.

Haynes said the corner is known for being windy, making flag upkeep and replacement a constant chore. After only a few weeks of flying, the flags are often wind-whipped and torn, Haynes said.

BRAVO Hawaii members usually check on the memorial monthly to bimonthly and replace flags as needed. Other volunteers, whom neither Haynes or Dymally could identify, donate flags anonymously.

"Lots of people replace them," Haynes said. "It's just an outpouring from the community. It's a showing of love and respect."

The flags were born out of an effort to build a more permanent memorial to Rogers, who was known more for his morning shows of patriotism than his Sunday barbecues behind Fort DeRussy for homeless veterans, or his Waianae homeless shelter.

Plans to put up a traditional flagpole or statue at the corner were tripped up by funding limitations, Haynes said.

"We do what we can with what we got. It's all out-of-pocket. ... We'll just do what we have to do (and) continue to post American flags," he said.

Dymally said hopes for a statue of the "General" at the corner have dimmed but not disappeared. "Every time I pass that corner, it reminds me of the 'General.' He was dedicated to helping ... (and I want) to keep his spirit alive."

Arthur Bennett, also a colonel in BRAVO Hawaii, said the group has a verbal agreement with Diamond Parking Service to place the flags on the fence. Diamond Parking officials did not return phone calls.

E-mail to City Desk


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