University City

Flag of fallen soldier flies again at school

Lee deMontigny was 13 when a soldier handed her the folded U.S. flag from her father's coffin.

Lt. Lewis Raymond Jones, a World War II veteran, suffered injuries on a Normandy beach that killed him 20 years later.

As his only child, deMontigny took the flag home. She kept it in a cedar chest for more than 45 years, until this month.

DeMontigny decided the flag should fly at Countryside Montessori School's Johnston-Oehler campus, where she teaches high school English.

When the weather is nice, students at the northeast Charlotte school raise the flag on a flagpole that was installed over the summer by former student Siddharth Modi.

The 28-foot flagpole and a gathering area around it were part of Modi's Eagle Scout project.

DeMontigny said she can't think of a better place for her flag. It will be used only on special occasions once a replacement flag arrives.

"Two of my brothers were in the Army. My dad was in the Army," said deMontigny, now 58. "Hopefully, it will always remind us of all the Americans who have sacrificed for us."

Her father was one of the first Americans to land at Normandy on June 6, 1944.

He was hit and badly wounded during his first few moments there. Still, he directed the men around him to a safe area from which to defend themselves from the German guns.

He received a Purple Heart. The bullet that had lodged near his lungs could not be surgically removed. He died from complications of that wound.

DeMontigny knew her decision to donate the flag to the school was unusual.

"Protocol is that once a flag has draped a coffin and has been folded, it's never unfolded," she said.

She consulted several family members about unfolding the flag, including her brother, a retired Army Special Forces veteran.

No matter who she talked with, the answer was always the same.

"Everyone said, 'It's your flag.' "

The flag flew on the campus for the first time Sept. 12 after a ceremony in which deMontigny spoke about her father and the day he landed at Normandy.

As a misty rain fell at the school last week, students rushed outside, folded the flag and brought it in.

On those days when the sky is clear, deMontigny starts her day by watching the flag play in the wind.

"The day they raised it for the first time, we had a nice, soft breeze," she said. "It was gently billowing. I love to see it there."