Manitowoc, Wisconsin man is known for his dedication to donating the American flag, earning him the title “The Flag Man.”
Within the past 11 years, Walter “Wally” Specht has given out nearly 45,000 miniature American stick flags in his local town of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. With the help of area high school students, Specht has made this patriotic stick flag giveaway an annual Memorial Day tradition before the parade starts in downtown Manitowoc.
To Wally, the flag stands for “the freedoms we all enjoy” and he and his wife, Donna, enjoy the responsibility it requires to honor it. After the parade, the couple visits area nursing homes to give out American flag pins to the resident veterans.
Memorial Day has long been a special day for Specht, 84. He recalls growing up in Kaukauna, Wisconsin and going to the local American Legion with his father and mother, who were both members. One of his favorite pastimes was marching in the Memorial Day parade with his family and having the opportunity to throw a wreath into the nearby rapids in honor of those veterans who were killed in World War I.
This heritage of honoring continued as Specht enrolled in the U.S. Navy and served a four-year stint during the Korean War. He was a radar operator and yeoman aboard a rocket ship that patrolled the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. He was later discharged in 1952 and a year later married Donna, who together raised five children.
In 1956, Specht joined the AMVETS Post No. 99 and started his “Fly the Flag Daily” campaign.
“If somebody had a tattered flag, people would tell me. I would go over to their home and tell them to take that flag down because it’s disrespectful to the men and women who are fighting for our county,” he said. “Respecting that flag is respecting the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom, the men and women who made the supreme sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy.”
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Specht was active with the AMVETS. He was elected state commander and soon found his way on the national executive committee. It was through his national committee that Specht met the national executive director, who was able to supply Specht with full-sized American flags.
So when the girl scouts requested 73 flags and the boy scouts requested 50, Spect was able to supply their troops with the flags they needed. Specht also undertook an initiative to distribute American flags to all the houses of worship in the Manitowoc area.
Specht became so synonymous with the American flag that a local newspaper editor appropriately nicknamed him “The Flag Man.” Thank to local donations from area businesses, Specht is able to uphold that nickname today as he annually hands out miniature flags on Memorial Day.