Stars and Stripes Forever

With the help of strong leadership, local Scouts display patriotism around The Dalles

By Rodger Nichols

Nia Pereira carries a bundle of flags to place on service members’ graves at Odd Fellows Cemetery. Photo Courtesy of Anthony Pereira

Ten times a year, the members of Scout Troop 398 in The Dalles rise early with a mission. Teams of adults and Scouts go to work at local cemeteries and along the streets of The Dalles to install 500 American flags in honor of various holidays. At day’s end, they return to pick up the flags and store them for safekeeping until the next holiday.

The practice has been taking place in The Dalles for decades but was in danger of fading away as troop membership dwindled. That’s when Anthony Pereira was asked to take over the troop leadership.

Born and raised in The Dalles, Anthony was a perfect choice. His father, John, was a scoutmaster and supported Anthony as he went through all the Scouting ranks, including Eagle Scout at 17.

Anthony was a 3-sport letterman in football, swimming, and track. The high school’s football team was runner-up in the state playoffs in 1992; the swim team made it to the state playoffs three years in a row; and Anthony was a member of the state champion 4x100-meter relay competition.

Athletic directors took notice. Anthony received an athletic scholarship to Jamestown College in North Dakota, where he competed in football on the national level.

In his senior year, the team lost in the second round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament to the defending national champion.

Flags welcome visitors at the west entrance to downtown The Dalles for a recent holiday. Photo Courtesy of Scott Pereira

“We’d beaten them earlier that year,” Anthony says. “But they figured out that our long-snap center, a senior, was also our starting center, and that if they took him out, our backup was a freshman. They got two defensive touchdowns on bad snaps after that, and we still lost by less than a touchdown. It’s amazing how much chess you play in football.”

After graduation, Anthony went into the investment and insurance business for a few years, then switched to banking. He worked up through the ranks and became the branch manager of Columbia Bank in Goldendale. In 2019, he returned to The Dalles to resume his insurance and investment career with New York Life.

With a broad portfolio of leadership experience and a Scouting background, Anthony was prepared to jump-start a local Scout revival.

“There were four Scouts in the program when I took over as scoutmaster,” Anthony says. “But my son wanted to join, and brought in three of his school friends, so we doubled the troop overnight. Today there are 30 members. At the time there were 200 flags, and we have increased that to 500.”

The Scouts cover extensive territory. Starting at Snipes Street, the flags are lined east on Sixth Street past Fred Meyer and over the bridge to West Third Place and through downtown to the roundabout. The line turns back west on Second Street, past the skate park to Cherry Heights, past Urness Motors, and back to Sixth Street.

They cover Walnut Street from Sherry’s to Gary Denny Floor Covering; Fourth Street from the junction with West Third Place east to Oliver’s Floor Covering; Washington Street by the courthouse; and Union from NAPA Auto Parts to the boat dock.

Former Scout and current scoutmaster Anthony Pereira leads Scout Troop 398 in spreading patriotism around The Dalles. Photo by Rodger Nichols

Anthony says there are always things to do with the program, and a number of other organizations are happy to help.

“We have a group of women who volunteer to make repairs to the flags,” he says. “Members of the city public works department volunteered on their own time to help clean out the holes in the sidewalks that hold the flagpoles that tend to fill up over time.”

In the past, there was a program in which merchants could sign up to sponsor flags in front of their businesses. For the past several years, the group has depended on voluntary contributions.

“We’re at the point now where we need to replace a number of flags,” Anthony says. “They’re not cheap, but we feel this is an important part of civics, reminding everyone that we are one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Contributions can be made to Scout Troop 398, care of 209 West Third Street.

“Every dime will go to keep the program running so our flags can freely fly,” Anthony says.