“About 2 weeks before Christmas on Dec 11th, I looked out my window on the 3rd floor of the Harbor Park condos to look for the US flag and the VFW flag that usually fly on top of the American Legion Post 21. It’s become a habit to check the flags for the wind direction and weather conditions before I head out for the day, even in the winter, since I learned to sail when I moved downtown a couple of years ago. The weather had been terrible for a couple of days with lots of rain and heavy winds so when I looked out and didn’t see the flags posted on that Dec 11th, I didn’t think much of it. I figured there had been a tornado warning a couple of weeks before, the weather had been consistently bad for a couple of days, and although I have never NOT seen the flags posted, I figured they had been taken down to be protected from the nasty weather we were having lately. I headed out to grab a coffee. My route took me past the American Legion and I looked up to see the American flag draped across the front of the building and whipping around in the wind.
About 5 years ago I watched a youtube video called Star Spangled Banner As You’ve Never Heard It. It explains really well to the regular citizen why it’s so important that the flag never touches the ground and why the flag is so respected. My daughters and I rewatch it every 4th of July.
Secondly, one of my father’s most prized possessions was his VFW flag. He was a Vietnam veteran and never talked about the war until very late in his life. One thing he did tell me was that he was not treated well when he returned from Vietnam. He passed in Nov 2017 from complications from Agent Orange. I learned over the later years how important VFW/MIA was to him.
So, I immediately sent a message over facebook to the American Legion page. I was unsure if I was just being paranoid about the flags being down so I threw in the message that my dad was a Vietnam Vet so I didn’t look too crazy. I sent an email with the same message to the address I found on the American Legion website in case no one monitored the Facebook page. Just from seeing the video above, it just reminded me of all the veterans who have sacrificed so much. I thought the least I could do is let someone know that their flags were down. Steve Tindall replied back to me over facebook messenger and thanked me for letting him know and to tell my dad
“Welcome home”. I’m not privy to many veterans conversations, but knowing that it bothered my dad so much how he was treated when he came home from Vietnam, Steve’s “Welcome home” meant so much.
I let him know that my dad had passed away. A couple hours later, Paul Ciarelli emailed to let me know he received the email information I sent also. I didn’t realize it at the time that Steve was the one I chatted with over Facebook Messenger, not Paul as the name shows up as the American Legion Post 21.
About a week later, Paul emailed me to ask to stop by to personally thank me for notifying the American Legion about the flags. I was presented with a desk flag and a nice statue of Vietnam soldiers, Washington DC. and a Certificate of Appreciation for my family. Paul didn’t know at the time but my father donated his body to the Medical College of WI when he passed away for research. My family was supposed to be notified when his remains were available for us to have (his ashes) within one to 3 years. This winter was the end of year 3 and we have not gotten information on his remains yet. When Steve said “Welcome home” and Paul brought me the Vietnam soldiers statue, I felt that it was my dad letting me know he was still around and everything was ok.
Paul requested to send the story to the Kenosha News and I agreed. I wanted to show my support for the military, veterans, and everyone who knows why you stand for the flag and be respectful of it and the national anthem. The Kenosha News got some facts wrong (not unusual) but the story reached a good friend of my father’s, Richard Bosanko, from when he worked at the fire department. Bo found my number and called to ask if he could shoot me an email of an interesting story from his buddy, Paul Frederickson. Bo forwarded me an email from Paul F of when he was at the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC in 2019.
Paul F had brought along pictures of all of his buddies who served who had either passed or would never be able to make it out to the Wall because of their health conditions. He had a picture taken of him and all of the pictures lined up on top of the wall when he was there. In his email, he told Bo that he returned all of the pictures of his buddies to their families but the only one he couldn’t was of my dad’s. My dad’s picture had fallen in the crevice of the Wall and he wasn’t able to retrieve it. It forever remains a part of the Wall in that little crevice. I always wanted my dad to be able to take an Honor Flight and get a true welcome home but because of his health, he never got the chance. To me, this was my dad’s way of letting me know he made it out to the Wall to honor all of the men and women who sacrificed their lives for him and us.
In all of this, the Kenosha News headline of Simple gesture leads to big result really rang true for me as a gift that kept on giving and was so meaningful to me personally. When I let the American Legion know their flags were down, it wasn’t supposed to benefit me in any way. My daughters and I have learned through Scouts to Do A Good Turn Daily. That was my Good Turn and all I wanted that day was a warm coffee. My daughters and I know how important the flag is, it’s a lesson we relearn every Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day and 4th of July and every time we see the old guys with the crooked VFW hats that remind me so much of my dad. When I let the American Legion know of the flags being down, that was my way of thanking them for their service, for remembering all that they sacrificed and to just say “Welcome home.”