Three Touching Stories from Colonial Flag Foundation EventsPaul Swenson
A Soldier Remembered by a Community Far From His Home
Sometimes events blend together perfectly in unexpected ways. Kathy DeRosa, the mayor of Cathedral City in California’s Riverside County, was touched by events she observed at one of her community’s annual Healing Field® flag displays.
A vacationing couple from out of state drove their motor home down the roadway adjacent to Cathedral City’s Healing Field® flag display and pulled into the parking lot to take a closer look. They had never visited Cathedral City before and wanted to know why there were thousands of flags posted in the park. Volunteers from the local Rotary Club explained that each flag displayed honored a soldier killed defending our nation in the Afghanistan or Iraq. As they talked, they made their way to the stage where names of killed service men and women were being read.
Just as the couple arrived in front of the stage, they heard—at that very moment—their son’s name read. Mayor DeRosa noted that this was an experience that no one could ever forget, and it was certainly an emotional experience for those parents. Upon hearing the couple’s story, the volunteers led the couple to the flag posted in honor of their son, and then presented the flag to a mother and father grateful that their son’s sacrifice had been remembered in a community far distant from their home.
It is often said that every flag displayed at a Colonial Flag Foundation event has a story. This is but the story of one flag that touched the lives of those who became a part of the story. A posted flag not only honors an individual, but like the concentric rings formed by a pebble thrown into a still pond, they spread out to touch family, friends so many others. As Mayor DeRosa described it so aptly, it can become an experience that no one could ever forget.
Honoring a Local Soldier Killed Defending Freedom
A Field of Honor® Flag Display does not take place in a vacuum. Honoring our military killed in the past sometimes collides with the present. Rotary Club members in Murrieta, California found that out while assembling flags for their annual Field of Honor® event.
When we remember our military men and women killed in World War II, Korea or Vietnam, these are wars of our nation’s history. The number of our war dead killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is yet growing. We search to cap a threat that is very real and still presents a serious threat to freedom.
As volunteers at Murrieta’s Town Square Park fixed flags to their white plastic staffs, they were aware that the son of a local family had died serving his country on foreign soil. As they worked assembled the flags, news arrived that a cortege carrying the casket of the young soldier would soon travel down the street next to the park. The volunteers grabbed assembled flags and lined both sides of the street before the procession arrived. The soldier’s family, riding in a car behind the hearse, was comforted to see that their soldier was remembered and honored by their community. After the solemn motorcade passed, the flags hurriedly moved to the street, were returned to the park and posted as part of the Field of Honor® display.
The next morning as Frank walked through the posted flags, he saw a group surrounding the flag posted to honor the soldier so recently killed. “It must be friends of the young man,” he thought to himself. “Certainly the family would not be able to visit he Field of Honor® flags so soon after their son’s body’s return. He walked over to the posted flag and found the soldier’s parents and close family surround the soldier’s flag. Frank, was honored that he on behalf of his Rotary Club’s members and Murrieta’s residents, could thank this grieving family for their son’s sacrifice. This experience was for those present, the core of healing.
The Impact of a Simple Picture
Frank Donahue, the Co-Chair of Murrieta’s Field of Honor has many memories of his community’s annual event. One memory sticks out prominently. Talking with visitors to the field of flags, he encountered a mother visiting the display with her young daughter. They mentioned that they would like a picture to record their visit, and Frank remembered that he has a cellular phone with a camera. An early example of this type of phone, Frank worried that the camera would not produce a good a photo as his expensive camera. Nevertheless, the woman and her daughter posed in front of a grouping of flags and Frank to the picture.
The composition and lighting were just right and Frank proudly offered to email his photo to the woman. “Could you send it to my husband in Afghanistan,” the woman asked. Not having known that the woman’s husband was deployed in a war zone, Frank was surprised but readily agreed. He entered the serviceman’s email address and pressed the send button. Mother and daughter thanked him and left for home.
Frank was certain that the photograph would be very meaningful to their deployed husband and father; still he was not prepared for the emotion he experienced when the two reappeared a couple of hours later. They showed Frank that his picture had been posted on a myriad of sites by a proud father. Frank’s cell phone photo had gone viral. The simple photograph of a mother and her daughter posed in front of a grouping of U.S. flags had a greater global impact than Frank could have imagined when he released the shutter on his cell phone camera.