The Fourth of July in my little town is a homestyle celebration. It comes complete with neighborhood fireworks, a city-wide salmon feed, a cruise-in car show, a street dance near the tavern, and of course the obligatory Independence Day Parade. In years past the Official Parade Marshall has included the retired school crossing guard sporting his traditional red, white and blue mohawk, and a dog that once ran a relatively successful write-in campaign for mayor. It’s the kind of parade where everyone waves at the volunteer firefighters because they know them mostly by name, cheers for the rodeo princess, and stands in awestruck reverence as the Mustang club rolls by, partly out of envy, and partly because they can recall when half the members were working on those same cars in the high school car shop twenty or thirty years ago. After all of the Farmall tractors roll by, it ends with several of the largest tow trucks you’ve ever seen in your life.
I know it’s not July any more. Stay with me here for a second.
Flash back to the Second of July, 2011. Husband is home for R&R and the country is filled with patriotism and hot dogs and I’m pretending it’s all because my husband is home. It’s the day appointed for us to begin placing our lawn chairs and blankets along the traditional parade route to secure a position close enough to the candy-throwing to ensure a cinnamon bear or two, but far enough away to avoid being pelted by the spray of the super-soakers wielded by the Little League All-Star float-riders. I’m driving along to peruse the possibilities, and I see something unusual.
It’s a man in ACU’s – including boots – running along the road (pretty fast I might add) with a huge United States flag.
Now I’ve run with a flag before, and it ain’t easy. I ran a relay once where the baton we used was a flag and let me tell you, the training I did helped me nada. The weight and resistance and torque and “look at me” factor that a flag adds is just, well, excruciating. But here was Big Sarge, running along happily in the heat of the day on (not kidding) Main Street. I knew there was something to it. Something important. I just didn’t know what.
I diverted from my mission, flipped a u-turn, and rolled my window down. I hesitated for a moment and almost drove away, wondering if he would think I was some love-starved cat-calling gal with a penchant for boys in uniform (which I am). But I overcame my shyness and yelled out, “smile, sir!” And you know what? He did. He smiled. So I snapped a picture with my phone:
I posted it to Facebook moments later, with some comments about what a real runner looks like. It caught the attention of a few friends and we were all mesmerized by this man running with our American Flag in hand. A couple of days later as we sat in our lawn chairs along the parade route, we were astonished to see him opening the Ridgefield procession! We yelled out, “that’s the guy in the Facebook photo!” My heart really swelled to see someone honoring our heroes that way. I imagined who he was and why he was running. I thought about fallen soldiers in a desert far away and I looked over at my husband, standing behind me. I assumed that this man’s run was a gesture meant for the Fourth of July. And then I forgot about it.
Until yesterday that is, when I received a comment from a reader which led to a mini conversation. It went something like this:
DAVE: Dig the Blog Lori … my family and I are not separated by a deployment but I am stationed in Salt Lake City for the next three years while my wife and four kids still live at home. I promised my daughter that the high school she starts at is where she will graduate … Anyway I hope the days go fast until your husband returns. I have another 3 months until my next visit home. Take care! SFC Dave Sivewright
ME: That’s rough Dave. My Dad stayed behind when we moved between my sophomore and junior year. I can relate! God speed to you! See you ’round.
DAVE: Thanks Lori! It’s a kinda small world. My dad was in the navy as well … you’ll probaly see me running with the US flag when I am home.
+ I gasped +
ME: Hey, I took a picture of you one day, Dave! I yelled, “smile sir!” And you did. You’re on my Facebook page. I love you, Sarge.
DAVE: I remember that lol. I would like to get a copy of that if possible. Thanks Lori.
I laughed thinking of how many of my friends commented that we’d like to know what the real story is behind the guy who runs with the flag, and here I was with his name, rank, and email address. It was like striking gold. You can’t exactly stop a guy running down the street to ask him what he’s doing and why. And yet here he was, commenting on my blog, and becoming my newest friend on Facebook. I’ve always said this blog has drawn me closer to the military community than the DoD ever did. And now, I’m right again (she likes being right). My ramblings and emotional exposure have officially introduced me to someone right here in my own hometown that was otherwise completely inaccessible to me through the vagaries of PERSEC and the necessary inability of security measures to connect military members in any kind of official capacity. And it’s not the first time, either.
Interwebs, I love you. But sorry. Not as much as I love Big Sarge.