SANFORD — Gary Aldrich Sr. didn’t know what to expect Monday when he unfurled an American flag that hadn’t been outside of its plastic casing in nearly 50 years.

The flag – last used to cover his grandfather’s casket at his 1966 funeral – was flown for one day only on Memorial Day at Aldrich’s home in Sanford.

The flag was so much bigger than the one it temporarily replaced on the flagpole that Aldrich had to raise the pole to its highest setting to keep the flag from touching the ground.

“There it is,” he said, smiling.

Aldrich said he was paying tribute not only to his grandfather Horace G. Aldrich, who served in World War I, but also his late dad, Horace P. Aldrich, who served in the Korean War, and all military members.

Aldrich said the unused flag was given to him by his mother, who died several years ago.

“My father taught me to be very patriotic,” said Aldrich, 51, who did not join the military but works in the North Berwick plant of Pratt & Whitney, a defense contractor that manufactures jet engines.

An American flag is painted onto his fence, and Aldrich sports an eagle-flag tattoo on his left arm.

“It just came into my head one day to do this for Memorial Day,” he said. “I thought it would be a great way to pay tribute.”

Aldrich said his grandfather died when he was 2, so he doesn’t remember meeting him, but that some basic information about Cpl. Horace G. Aldrich’s service was passed down through the generations. He said his grandfather volunteered for the Army at age 19, probably in 1917, and supplied troops who were fighting in France. After the war, Aldrich worked as a woodsman, probably a logger, in Penobscot County.

Gary Aldrich’s father, Horace P. Aldrich, also an Army corporal, did not speak much about his Korean War experiences.

“Everything was hush. They just moved on,” Aldrich said.

But Aldrich said he knows his dad was haunted by his two-year stint in Korea, and did talk about one harrowing experience.

“He was upset about having to shoot a woman,” he said. “She was wearing a long, flowing dress, but she hid a machine gun under her dress, and when she brought it out, he had to shoot.”

On Memorial Day, Aldrich usually goes up to where his family is from, the Old Town area, to take care of nine graves, including those of his father, grandfather and aunts and uncles. He couldn’t make it this year, so he decided to do the flag dedication.

“It’s great to have a barbecue, but the history needs to be out there, to remember why we have this day, and to not forget where we came from,” he said.

Phil Aldrich, 28, Gary’s son, sometimes joins his dad in Old Town to decorate the graves. “We’re all about family,” he said.

Sanford’s Memorial Day parade drew thousands of onlookers, as a collection of veterans groups, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Sanford High School and junior high marching bands and others entertained.

The Helms family of Alfred enjoyed the parade on a sunny, warm morning. Bella Rose Helms, 7, liked the Girl Scouts the best because she’s a Scout. Her sister, Julia Helms, 9, was most impressed seeing the veterans marching by.

“I like to see them because they help protect us,” Julia said.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

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Twitter: @joelawlorph