Motorists on the Santa Monica Freeway have grown accustomed to seeing theS. flag waving from the giant flagpole north of the freeway at Cloverfield Boulevard. However, they have been seeing a different banner the last five weeks.
Sam Kardashian, owner of the pole, has been flying a new flag, honoring the memory of the prisoners of war and servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War.
He plans to fly the flag every Memorial Day to bring attention to veterans "from all our wars," just as he flies a "Don't Tread on Me" flag on July 4 and the Stars and Stripes the rest of the time.
Kardashian, 45, began displaying flags on the pole, located on the property of his Southern California Disposal Co., 1837 24th St., Santa Monica, in 1976, with a 1776 flag in honor of the nation's Bicentennial. The flags measure 30 by 50 feet.
He put up the POW/MIA flag after Charles and Jean Ray of Frazier Park told him the story of their son, James M. Ray, a U. S. Army staff sergeant who was captured in 1969 in South Vietnam.
Ray, then 18, was declared dead by the Army, but the Rays maintain that there is no credible evidence of his death.
"No body was found, there were no witnesses," Jean Ray said in a telephone interview. "The fact that we don't know what happened to him is what has been bothering us for 18 years."
She said that during a drive to their daughter's house in Malibu, she and her husband saw the flagpole and decided to meet Kardashian and ask him to fly a POW/MIA flag.
"We had a flag but it was too small," she said. "Sam had one made up at his own expense."
Jean Ray said that they want to keep alive the issue of American prisoners of war and those missing in action in the public mind .
"It isn't just for Jimmy, it's for other soldiers and their families," she said. "I know people want to forget about the Vietnam War. So would we."
Kardashian said that he shares the belief held by the Rays that there are some of "our boys" unaccounted for in Vietnam.
"Whether they are alive or not, I don't know," he said. "I'm pleased to be able to fly the flag for them and for all the veterans of all the wars."