Harvard veteran preserves history, stories of military service flags

HARVARD – One of the first service flags Mark and Kristine Hutson bought was found in a cabinet at a farm auction near Union.

After about four years of collecting, the Hutsons, who live in Harvard, have about 100 flags that are marked with blue stars, to represent a family member serving in the military during war time, and gold stars, to represent a family member who died during a war.

The flags started becoming popular during World War I, Hutson said, and were widely displayed during World War II, when people would hang them in windows to let others know that a family member is or was serving.

“They wanted to show everyone that their loved one was serving this country, and really, it was really about the pride and the patriotism in the country,” Mark Hutson said, adding some people still hang the flags today.

When he found the first flag, Hutson thought, “How could this flag mean so much in that period of time and today it’s in an old used farm cabinet?”

Hutson, who served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1988, said his military background and love of patriotism is why he and his wife travel the country to collect the flags, research their history and present their collection.

From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the Hutsons will give a presentation at the Woodstock Public Library on the flags’ histories and present other wartime memorabilia they have collected.

The Hutsons’ collection includes flags and other items, ranging from posters to sheet music to pins related with the blue and gold stars.

Kristine Hutson said she and her husband use their collection to educate, and do not sell any of the items they collect.

“It does no good to hoard the stuff and keep it at your house,” Kristine Hutson said.

She said they try to spread the message of the importance of communicating with family members to find out the history of people who have served.

“It could be just a simple conversation at Thanksgiving, just to ask your grandfather a question, or ask someone in the service a question so you have some type of history to pass on,” Kristine Hutson said. “Because when we get it, the history stops – because all we can do is keep it and preserve it, and spread the word.”

The Hutsons have been able to track down the families behind about four of the flags and artifacts they’ve collected, and Mark Hutson said he is planning on writing a book about the Borgstrom family, who lost four sons in World War II.

“War is not something in general that people want to do, but when it does happen it really does speak to the patriotism and respect and the gratitude for the country,” Mark Hutson said.

Kristine Hutson said it’s not a political point of view they are trying to make about war in their presentations – it’s about appreciating the people who have served and will serve.

In addition to working full time, Mark and Kristine Hutson run an antique business that helps them track down some of the service flags and other military artifacts. Mark Hutson said they’ve spent anywhere from a few dollars to $900 on a flag.

When they are done collecting, the Hutsons plan to donate the collection to an organization so the collection stays together and the flags don’t end up in boxes, Mark Hutson said.

If you go

What: Mark and Kristine Hutson’s presentation on military service flags

When: Flags will be on display from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and a presentation will be given from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Woodstock Public Library, 414 W. Judd St., Woodstock

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