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Respect for the Red, White and Blue

July 7, 2009 - Jennifer Brookens
One thing I admire about the people in this area is that the patriotism runs deep.

I'm not originally from the area, but where I grew up (or maybe it was growing up in the peacetime "me" decade of the 1980s) my parents were the exception rather than the rule when it came to honoring the flag. In parades, they would stand quietly and put their hand over their heart as it passed, and they made sure I did it too. I noticed the older people did it, but the rest of the kids would run around looking for parade candy, while their parents would just keep on gabbing, not even giving the flag a second glimpse.

So growing up, I seemed to be one of few children who were taught both in school and home to respect the flag. But these past few years, I've been pleased to see just how much this community honors our country's servicemen and symbol. When our local National Guard was called overseas for Operation: Enduring Freedom in 2005, I remember the parade as they left. The sidewalks for the entire length of Blue Earth Avenue were packed, but as those men marched by, not a peep was heard. Not even from the small children.

In 2006, attending a fallen soldier's funeral, the town of Welcome boomed from its usual 700 population to nearly three times that number. As the flag-draped coffin was brought from the church, there was nothing but silence from the hundreds of gatherers who paid their respects. It was one of the most powerful moments I ever experienced, and no one said one word. Truly a golden silence if I ever heard one.

And I witnessed it again this Fourth of July at the Armstrong parade. There were throngs of children excited about clowns and parade candy, and everyone was just out enjoying the day. But when the veterans marched by with the flag, all stood up, hand over heart and everyone was still as the flag passed by. Even the children.

My father fought in Vietnam, and decades later suffered rare but severe illnesses that led to his death. Whether it could be linked to the chemical warfare he was exposed to while fighting in 'Nam, we will never know. Losing my father (and now an uncle as well), along with having other family members and friends who currently serve in the military, it moves me to know that so many people honor that risk and sacrifice. They don't know who they are or their personal stories, but I know it goes the same way for all the veterans and soldiers I honor and respect every time our flag passes by. God Bless you all.


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