Estherville was already decked out in flags before Larry Eckhardt, 'The Flag Man', brought 2,280 more to town Thursday. Then Monday, flags were handed out to Estherville Lincoln Central students who carried them home proudly.
One only needs to remember back to the Vietnam Conflict to remember when this would not have been the case. Yes, there were the memorials and the honor guards. But you did not see entire communities coming together to celebrate the life of a fallen hero.
We've come upon a sea of change since then, a change that redefines what it is to be an American. It's a change that makes us appreciate the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform for not just the current war in Afghanistan but for all wars - yes, even Vietnam.
For decades, memories of Vietnam and the protests in the U.S. have torn the fabric of American culture. But now, our renewed patriotism seems to be healing over even those old wounds, those old scarred-over feelings of whether one supported the war or not. We're no longer pro-war or anti-war. We are now all Americans.
You can see it in the schools, when kids speak up proudly about their country (hint: maybe this would be a good time to start reciting the Pledge of Allegiance again, and include the word 'Under God').
You could see it the way volunteers of all ages lined up eagerly, proudly, to place flags along Central Avenue and throughout Estherville last Thursday. And you can see it in the eyes of grizzled old vets at the coffee shop who admit that they now see a generation of youth - and young people who want to serve in the military - that's equal to their own. After all, we fought two wars at once with an all-volunteer force.
If Estherville is at all any indication, America is changing - for the better.
The respect and gratitude our community feels toward Sgt. Steve Blass is a good indication of that. People understand his sacrifice and what it means to our freedom.
Finally, we all 'get it'.
Help needed to take down flags
There was a great turnout to put up flags last Thursday, but there needs to be a great turnout at 4 p.m. today at the Estherville Lincoln Central High School parking lot to help The Flag Man pack up and get on his way.
And when you see him, give Larry a big thanks for all he's done.