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David Yearwood just wanted to see flag unfurl

David Yearwood just wanted to see flag unfurl


While many Vincentians cherish proud memories of Independence Day, few have a greater sense of pride than the cadet who hoisted the national flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) for the first time,a at the stroke of midnight, October 27, 1979.{{more}}

As he stood at the base of the flag pole, a 22-year-old Regimental Sergeant Major David Yearwood would only hope that when the flag arrived at the top, it would unravel in a perfect cascade of blue, yellow and green, a symbol of this country’s independence from Britain.

In an exclusive interview with SEARCHLIGHT during a visit to SVG last week, Yearwood explained that the moment was one of extreme pride and joy.

“The memories I have today are of true pride and joy and distinct satisfaction of having been selected to do this. When we trained for it, it was actually a very special moment. First of all…when the Statehood flag and the Union Jack came down, my flag went up, the Independence flag,” he related.

“I guess my big thing was, I was just thinking that when that flag got to the top that it would just unfurl, because you had to jerk the string a little bit and I know people were looking to see what the flag looked like when it was first unfurled, but I was just concerned that the whole ceremony went well, there were no mistakes, that was my focus…and big sigh of relief once the flag started flying”.

As he reminisced on that significant moment in history, the now 56-year-old Yearwood revealed that while he had immersed himself in the excitement of the moment, all the implications that came with St Vincent and the Grenadines being independent were at the back of his mind.

“The preparation is always special and there’s excitement associated with that and I guess sometimes you get caught up in the excitement, all the pomp and pageantry associated with the parade and that’s how it was for me personally, and I think for the men and women of the cadet force and the police force and the girl guides and everybody who participated.

“The euphoria of the moment would have been great, but then you have to think ‘Wow, we just made a big step as a country, so now we’re independent. Are we really ready to take on the responsibilities of Independence?’ Yes, everything returned to normal the next day after, but you have to think in terms of what are the implications of Independence. This is not something that you take lightly, but now you’re going to be responsible for not only internal, but also external affairs,” he said.

“Exciting” and “simple” were words that Yearwood used to describe growing up in SVG before it received independence.

The former cadet, who grew up in Frenches, went to the Kingstown Preparatory School as a young boy. After completing class 5, young Yearwood hop scotched his way around several secondary institutions, including the Intermediate High School, the Emmanuel High School Kingstown and the Bishop’s College Kingstown.

Yearwood also has fond memories of visiting his grandfather’s farm in Belair, where he would carry large bunches of banana on his head.

“I had my share of fun. It wasn’t that I lacked fun…I had a really good, simple life, but a life that was filled with a lot of memories. Would I do anything differently? I don’t think so. Everything that happened, happened for a purpose. St Vincent, in terms of training, was great for me,” he said.

Being a part of the Cadet Force was significant in Yearwood’s development into the man he is today.

Yearwood, who is a professor and chair of the Technology Department at the University of North Dakota, told SEARCHLIGHT that being a cadet was part of the base that taught him how to become a responsible citizen.

“Discipline was a significant thing in our lives. We were taught to behave well, to be respectful and so it was natural that when I got into the Cadets, it just continued,” he said.

“And the cadet force really played a significant role in my life. I think the discipline and the order and the dedication, I think made me who I am today, so the cadet force, with my parents…was a solid foundation for how to act as a responsible citizen”.

In December 1979, only months after hoisting the national flag, Yearwood left SVG and migrated to the United States of America. However, the professor has always kept himself informed about the affairs of his country and is extremely happy about the

strides that SVG has made since becoming independent 34 years ago.

“I’m happy and proud to come back and see some of the changes. We’re certainly aware of the traffic. There is a significant amount of vehicles on the road that were not on the road in ’79. We’ve seen changes in terms of the infrastructure that has gone up along bay side and the different buildings and industries that have come into St Vincent so that really is a big plus,” he said.

“It’s nice to hear about the roads going to Leeward being taken care of and you’ve certainly done quite a bit of that on the Windward side. I see some of the houses going up and really nice scenic overlooks and beautiful houses. It’s really nice to see that kind of growth”.

In his opinion, the next step for this country would be to bridge the gap between the fortunate and less fortunate people.

“I want to see more people having opportunities. The more people that can have opportunities, the better I think, I feel as a contributor, as a native of St Vincent. We have too many situations where sometimes we think too selfishly about ourselves. We need to think ‘How do we include everybody at this party?’ We’re certainly not going to meet everybody’s needs, but how do we meet basic needs and how do we support people and how do we encourage them and how do we challenge them to reach new heights or have dreams and achieve those dreams,” Yearwood said seriously.

“We just need to make certain that that growth which is being experienced in St Vincent and the economic development… reaches across all spectrums, levels, so that everybody can have a small part of this. We still have under served communities in St Vincent and we need to find a way to get those people who are in those areas…try to give everybody a lift up”.

Yearwood and his wife Jo-Anne (nee Pompey, originally from New Montrose) are determined to play a role in that vision. Under the Jewel and Randolph Education and Technology Foundation, which provides technology equipment, support and training to under served communities, they are working on donating computers to various persons in SVG.

“Part of our job is to bridge some of that digital divide between the people who have and the people who do not,” Yearwood said. “We are hoping that in the next few months, we can have the container with computers shipped to St Vincent and go out to the people we have been speaking with”.

Even after 34 years, being the first person to hoist the national flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines remains one of Yearwood’s greatest life achievements.

“It’s a significant historical moment and it’s deeply embedded in my mind. I have vivid memories of the preparation leading up to when we had to get there, waiting until right at midnight; I have vivid memories of all that…it’s a moment that is one of distinct honour and it’s really a sort of surreal experience. You don’t do something like that and not remember the significance of what you were doing,” he said.