Southern Californians are among thousands across the nation requesting paper replicas of the blue-star service flags displayed during both world wars, according to a storekeeper in the St. Louis area.
Tony Petruso said he has filled requests for more than 130,000 of the paper flags so far, and the orders keep coming.
“It’s been totally amazing,” said Petruso, owner of Overlord Military Collectables, a small shop in suburban Breckenridge Hills, Mo. “I cannot believe how my little idea spread. . . . I’m getting requests from Apple Valley, San Diego, Los Angeles--all over out there, all over the country.”
Only a few volunteers can fit into the little shop and still leave room for customers.
“All our friends have paper cuts, sore fingers and backaches,” Petruso said. “But they all love the idea and they’re helping out.”
The flags are being sent to people at no cost, although Petruso said he has begun accepting donations to help pay for the printing.
Service flags were displayed in windows during World War I and World War II to designate the homes of people with relatives in the service. Petruso drew up a design, took it to a printer and started with an order of 1,000.
The flags are roughly 8-by-10-inch sheets of paper with a red border and a blue star in the center. Above the star are the words “In Service” and below are the words “Desert Storm.”
“I’ve had requests for Gold Stars, too,” Petruso said. Those were the flags given to the next of kin of soldiers killed in World War II.
“Because of optimism and superstition, I didn’t have those printed up at first,” he said. “The way things turned out, I’m having some of those made now, too.”
Compiled by Times staff writer Eric Malnic from staff and wire reports.