After more than a century, American flag now waves above Rubonia Cemetery

- American flags will be flying all around the Bay Area in celebration of the Fourth of July, but one flag in particular, in Manatee County, will fly with special meaning.

For the first time in more than a century, the Rubonia Cemetery will have an American flag waving above it thanks to the efforts of local Army veteran Charles Miller Sr..

If you live in the Rubonia neighborhood of Palmetto, you probably know him.

"I'm a retired mailman," Miller said. "I did 30 years at the downtown Bradenton Post Office."

The 69-year-old Vietnam veteran now runs Chuck's Convenience Store from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

His passion, however, has been to make some permanent change at Rubonia Cemetery on Sim Barco Road, which runs parallel to Interstate 75. It's where about 50 veterans are laid to rest.

"I've got a cousin, he's from World War II, I've got a couple uncles from World War II out there and cousins from Vietnam," Miller said.

The cemetery has been there since 1912 but for more than a century, no American flag has ever flown above the grave sites.

"We always go out and put the small flag poles out on Veterans Day and Memorial Days," Miller said. "Without the flagpole, people just forget about the veterans and stuff like that."

Miller went on a mission to change that. He held a yard sale in front of his store.

"I raised about $650," he said.

With the help of the Manatee County Veterans Services Office and Jewish Family and Children's Service of the Suncoast, they raised the $1,350 needed to raise the Stars and Stripes.

"You can see it right off 75 now," Miller said. "I am very pleased that it's there now. Should've been there a long time ago but it's there now."

While Miller is a little sore from finishing the concrete work, the sight of Old Glory flying in the breeze this Independence Day makes all the hard work worthwhile.

"As long as I live and as long as I live here, I'm going to always fight for this little small community. It's not a bad community. I love it. I live here," Miller said.

The flag will be officially dedicated Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Manatee County Veterans Services Officer Lee Washington will be the guest speaker.

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