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A beautiful, sunny morning. Just enough wind to fill the flags without having them give you a good snap in the face as you walk in their midst. The tinkling of the tags of over one thousand veterans swinging in the breeze. This is Le Mars "Avenue of Flags."A Legion member said it has only rained twice in nearly thirty years. One can't remember many bad weather days for what has become Le Mars' special salute to its citizens who served our country. Families proudly and somberly present the flags of their loved ones who have recently passed away. What a privilege to think that they "served."A highlight each year is the reading of the thousand, plus name roster by Le Mars attorney Patrick Murphy. For long time community members it is a time to close your eyes and listen to the names of those who were a part of your life. "Earl Bogen," Mr. Fireman, walking downtown with his pipe, driving the La France," Clyde Overman," the man at Bowers clothing who sold you your Boy Scout uniform, "Arnie Robinette," as much a fixture at the Post Office as the flag, itself. "Max Pehler," whose tales of experiences after the fall of Nazi Germany could keep a young man listening for hours even sitting on the hard oak chair at Far Away Tours.The thoughts enter your mind about as fast as Pat reads the names. The thankfulness for those who gave their lives so we could enjoy such a beautiful day in peace. The realization that those who lived beyond the wars contributed so much to our community. Life can truly be sweet in Le Mars.
Duty, honor, respect,love. I'm not sure what motivated dozens of men to show up at six in the morning on Memorial Day. I know why I was there: Thanks for those who served our country and community.Le Mars' "Avenue of Flags" is an annual ritual that has been going on for nearly four decades. From what I observed at dawn's early light it has exceeded meticulous organization to become an art form. Nearly twelve hundred flags placed in holders and grouped by alphabet. It took around an hour for the flags to be placed. The choreography included two semis provided by Schuster Trucking that held the flags, men working out of the back of the trailers handing flags to men who continuously lined up behind the trucks. These men then placed them in the holders and it was back into line for more flags.The trucks worked around the Courthouse block. Directors monitored the process and made sure each flag was properly placed, rarely pointing to a missed holder.It all went off hardly missing a beat. Actually, a few of the guys looked like they were sleep walking. I wondered whether I wanted to get up early and document the process. I'm glad I did. The urge to look under the hood of what many might take for granted later on that morning was worth it. It extended my sense of thanks beyond those that "served" to those who still do.One can only hope the dedication to service extends for generations to come. And from the age of some of the young men helping, the future looks promising.